One Tragic Night

One Tragic Night
Mandy Wiener and Barry Bateman

As I’ve had occasion to remark before, the genre of true crime often has to struggle against the narrative-killing trap of the trial, which is typically the end point of the process. Not that criminal trials aren’t interesting in their own right, but given that big cases throw up a vast wealth of evidence and other information the story often bogs down into a play-by-play account of what happened in the courtroom. This is something One Tragic Night could hardly avoid, and the subtitle — The Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial — lets you know what to expect. The trial was one that lent itself to the taking of pains, with the prosecution’s case being built on circumstantial evidence and the accused having deep pockets. On top of that, the verdict depended on a very fine technical point of law relating to the tricky matter of intent, and would be forcefully overruled later (it is currently awaiting further appeal). Is such a full account then necessary? I don’t think so, as aside from the matter of celebrity this was neither a clear or particularly significant case and it tells us nothing interesting about the beautiful people involved (who seem not to have been very interesting in the first place) or the justice system. The only takeaways — that you are more likely to be killed by someone you know and that keeping loaded guns in the house is dangerous — are common knowledge. The details don’t matter as much.