PRETORIA, South Africa — Oscar Pistorius returned to court Monday morning to resume what feels like the never-ending trial of the century.
The courtroom benches were a little emptier, the journalists grumpier, and the Twitter ennui palpable as feeds were again flooded with descriptions of Pistorius family facial expressions and the judge’s new hairdo.
But don’t despair — the end may be nigh.
Wait — this thing is still going on?
Indeed. The trial resumed Monday after a six-week break during which time Pistorius, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013, was under psychiatric evaluation at a state mental hospital.
Pistorius was found not to have any mental illness or defect that would have affected him the night he shot Steenkamp. This means he is capable of being held criminally responsible for his actions, and capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of the act.
A little background: While Pistorius admits he shot and killed Steenkamp, he maintains it was an accident and that he mistook her for an intruder. The state argues that he deliberately killed Steenkamp, a law graduate, model and aspiring reality TV star.
Why is this trial taking so long?
OK, it hasn’t actually been THAT long — it just feels like it.
Maybe it’s the intense coverage: the Pistorius trial began March 3 amid international media frenzy. This is the first live-broadcast trial in South African history, being aired on a “pop up” satellite TV channel as well as streamed online.
And all that air time has led to an inevitable backlash. Many South Africans are tired of the attention being focused on Pistorius when there is no shortage of important national stories going uncovered. Besides, after four months of constant Pistorius trial "expert analysis," what else is there to say?
There have been some unexpected delays, like when one of the judge’s assessors fell ill (there’s no jury system in South Africa; Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa is advised by two legal experts). The psychiatric assessment slowed things down by a month or so, though legal experts say it was necessary to prevent a future appeal on certain grounds. And don’t forget all those times when Pistorius was testifying, got overly emotional, and had to take breaks.
This trial has also seen a large number of expert witnesses called by the defense, which doesn’t exactly make things speedy.
Why do you journalists insist on tweeting so much useless stuff about the trial?
We’re sorry. And a little embarrassed. But in our defense:
1) There are, in fact, people who are riveted by the trial and associated minutiae. No really. We get mail.
2) Proceedings can get pretty tedious inside Courtroom GD at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria — and the smallest detail can take on new interest. Like when lawyer Barry Roux launches into a particularly persistent line of questioning with his special turns of phrase (eg. "I put it to you"). Or when you’re staring at the back of the Blade Runner’s head in court wondering about his two white patches of hair, while trying not to feel queasy as he retches into a plastic bucket. We feel compelled to share these special moments with the world.
More from GlobalPost: The 7 most pointless things live-tweeted from the Pistorius trial (so far)
When will it end?!
Pistorius’ lawyers are now calling their final few witnesses. Currently on the stand is acoustics expert Ivan Lin, who is testifying as to whether the sounds of female and male voices can be distinguished at a certain distance. Starting Tuesday morning, he faces cross-examination by chief prosecutor Gerrie “the Pitbull” Nel.
There is at least one more witness to come. After that, the defense and prosecution teams will present their final arguments. There will first be a break for a few weeks, to give the legal teams time to prepare these documents.
The trial will then be adjourned for another few weeks to give the judge time to prepare her judgment.
And after that?
Justice Masipa is expected to deliver her verdict in August or early September, barring unforeseen delays.
If Pistorius is found guilty, then there will be sentencing. If he is convicted of premeditated murder, he faces 25 years to life behind bars. If convicted of culpable homicide — the equivalent to manslaughter in South Africa’s judicial system — there is no minimum sentence. A betting man or woman might wager on the latter outcome, with perhaps some jail time applied. But only Judge Masipa really knows.
After that, there may be appeals. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves now.