Oscar Pistorius found guilty of the murder of his girlfriend
Olympic-winning South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, whom he shot through a bathroom door at the home the pair shared in Pretoria, South Africa.
At the time, Pistorius had claimed he mistook Steenkamp for a home intruder and shot through the door in self-defense. A court in Pretoria had last year found Pistorius guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter (as it is known in the United States), or culpable homicide. Manslaughter implies there was no premeditation in the killing, therefore it was not with the planned intent to cause the death of the victim.
The prosecution then believed Pistorius was unaware of who was behind the bathroom door when he shot and killed them, and the blade runner’s sentence was then commuted, with the athlete placed under house arrest at the time after spending one year in prison. His full sentence had been 5 years, with the athlete being released from prison to house arrest in October 2015, earlier than expected.
Now, however, a South African appeals court has overturned the previous September 2014 verdict, with the athlete now guilty of murder instead. The Court of Appeal said that the lower court had not correctly used a very specific legal rule – dolus eventualis – which in essence implies that the subject – here, Pistorius, knew that a death would result from his actions.
The identity of the victim is not relevant in this rule; considering Pistorius used a 9mm pistol, a powerful weapon, on his 29-year-old girlfriend, the presiding judge, Justice Lorimer Leach, ruled that Pistorius knew his actions would result in the death of the person behind the door, and that was instrumental in deciding he should be convicted for murder rather than manslaughter.
Pistorius will now have to return to court in Pretoria; his previous sentence will no longer stand as the court convenes to resentence him.