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Margie Orford

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

South African Courts Belong More to the World of Stephen King than Jurisprudence

Courtroom dramas are in a little bit like science fiction or romance. There are cult followers who follow the increasingly (to me, a prosaic crime writer rooted in science, motive and evidence) weird narrative twists that take place.

John Grisham is the undisputed king of the fictional courtroom drama and his books capture the socially agreed voodoo that is necessary for a justice system to work: the rigmarole of the robes, the standing and rising for judges, the wood paneling, the gavel, the hand on the bible stuff, the swearing to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth – as if that were remotely possible. All this ritual makes us believe the justice system is rational and fair and real in fiction.

Reality is altogether another matter and, seeing as I am not writing a book at the moment, it has diverted me from the plausible world of fictional justice. The cases currently before bemused-looking judges presiding over South African courts belong more to the world of Stephen King than jurisprudence. For example, there’s the case of the high court judge murdered in his luxury apartment Cape Town. His hell-hath-no-fury wife is on trial his brutal slaying alongside with a young man who seems to have confused the roles of toyboy/handyman with hitman. The presiding judge is looking nervy. My advice to him would be that he buys his own wife flowers on the way home.


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