There was never any dispute that Oscar Pistorius killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day in 2013. The only thing uncertain, however, was whether the double-amputee Olympian meant to do it. Find out more in this Oscar Pistorius trial update.
A South African appellate court on Thursday convicted Pistorius of murder, overturning a previous conviction of the Blade Runner on the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Pistorius, who won six gold medals at three Paralympic Games, shot into superstardom when he competed against able-bodied runners at the 2012 London Olympics. Pistorius now faces at least a 15-year prison sentence, the minimum punishment for murder in South Africa.
Under South African law, a murder conviction hinges on the offender’s intention to kill. Without proving intent, the killing is ruled as culpable homicide or manslaughter. Speaking on behalf of a five-judge panel, Justice Lorimer Eric Leach overruled last year’s judgment, ruling that there was “fundamental error.”
“This case involves a human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions: a young man overcomes huge physical disabilities to reach Olympian heights as an athlete; in doing so he becomes an international celebrity; he meets a young woman of great natural beauty and a successful model; romance blossoms; and then‚ ironically on Valentine’s Day‚ all is destroyed when he takes her life.”
Justice Leach slammed Pistorius for altering his side of the story on multiple occasions:
“With ample justification‚ the (High Court) found (Pistorius) to have been ‘a very poor witness’. His version varied substantially. At the outset he stated that he had fired the four shots ‘before I knew it’ and at a time when he was not sure if there was somebody in the toilet. This soon changed to a version that he had fired as he believed that whoever was in the toilet was going to come out to attack him. He later changed this to say that he had never intended to shoot at all.”
Finally, Justice Leach said that the original verdict misapplied the principle of “dolus eventualis” — a Latin term relating to the intent of a suspect.
“(Pistorius’s) conviction and sentence on count 1 are set aside and replaced with the following: ‘Guilty of murder with the accused having had criminal intent in the form of dolus eventualis’. The matter is referred back to the trial court to consider an appropriate sentence afresh in the light of the comments in this judgment.”