Oscar Pistorius, 29, a former Olympian runner from South Africa known as the Blade Runner, has been found guilty of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, according to a ruling by the South African Supreme Court of Appeal. He was previously convicted of culpable homicide, but that was overturned.
The defense argued at the trial that Pistorius thought that there was an intruder in the house and he was afraid especially due to the fact that he has no legs and was not wearing his prosthetics at the time. The incident occurred in the middle of the night. The prosecution argued that the relationship between Steenkamp and Pistorius was rocky and that Pistorius purposefully killed her during a domestic incident where she had fled to the bathroom for refuge. They also argued that Pistorius was known to recklessly fire his handgun.
But, the appeals court said that none of that mattered. Judge Eric Leach ruled that the gold medalist should have foreseen that firing his weapon would kill whoever was behind the door of the bathroom, regardless whether he thought the person was Steenkamp or an intruder.
Prosecutors had appealed the verdict seeking a more severe conviction. Leach ruled that the original conviction was “fundamentally flawed”. Pistorius shot through the bathroom door striking Steenkamp, a model, four times. Pistorius now faces up to 15 years in prison. He was originally sentenced to 5 years. He has served 1 year.
The judge said that the case was “a human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.” The ruling rested on what is called dolus eventualis, in other words, whether or not Pistorius should have foreseen that his actions would cause death.
The judge criticized the trial judge for failure to consider ballistic evidence adequately. He ruled that the evidence was clear that the person inside the bathroom would beyond a doubt be struck by gunfire. It was “common sense” that Pistorius must have known he was carrying out a lethal act and that he was “gambl[ing] with life”.
“All the shots fired through the door would almost inevitably have struck the person behind it. There would be effectively no place to hide.”
He said that Pistorius’ testimony was “unacceptable.” The judge ruled against the prosecution stating that Pistorius did have a genuine belief that his life was in danger, but he should have acted more rationally. The judge rejected the entire core of the prosecution’s argument that Pistorius and his girlfriend were in an argument on Valentine’s Day two years ago and Pistorius killed her during a domestic dispute as she locked herself in the bathroom.
The judge ruled that Pistorius should have fired a warning shot and shouldn’t have shot 4 times.
“The identity of [the] victim is irrelevant to his guilt.”
Under South African law, prosecutors can appeal convictions and double jeopardy did not apply to Pistorius’ case. Pistorius can appeal to the country’s Constitutional Court. Pistorius is currently under house arrest. He will remain there until his new sentencing next year.