South Africa’s biggest murder trial is under way, and there’s a black woman at its helm.
Oscar Pistorius—one of that nation’s most renowned paralympics professional athletes and a former Olympian—stands accused of murdering his 29-year-old model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
With the world watching, Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa—and only Masipa—will decide if Pistorius intentionally killed his girlfriend or if he sincerely thought she was an intruder and thereby killed her by accident, as Pistorius claims. Unlike murder trials in the United States and most modern judicial systems, South Africa does not have trials decided by jurors because it was nearly impossible to find jurors not influenced by the racial effects of apartheid.
Masipa has had an impressive career. Her tough background, which The Root culled from global news reports, lends credence to court watchers’ speculation that she will not be influenced by the defendant’s emotional breakdowns or the crying and vomiting in court.
Here are seven things to know about the judge: