Oscar Pistorius’ defence is risky – William Booth

2014-09-08 17:29

Paralympian Oscar Pistorius might be found guilty of killing an intruder, if not his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, says a top lawyer.

“I think there is quite a significant risk that Oscar could be convicted of murdering the intruder,” defence lawyer William Booth told the Cape Town Press Club today.

“He could have fired a warning shot. On the other version, even if the court finds that is acceptable ... I think he is going to have a problem.”

Judge Thokozile Masipa will hand down judgment on Pistorius in the High Court in Pretoria on Thursday.

The athlete was charged with murder following the fatal shooting of model and law-graduate Steenkamp.

He shot her through a locked toilet door in his Pretoria home on Valentine’s Day last year. He claimed he mistook her for an intruder.

Booth said anybody who shot four times through a door, into a tiny toilet, must have known they were going to kill the person on the other side.

However, he said the State would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Pistorius was guilty of murder.

If the court found him guilty of killing an intruder, his emotional state and the high crime levels in the country would play an important role in sentencing.

On the possibility of premeditated murder, Booth said he believed the State would struggle to convince the court there had been planning.

He said the court would also be looking at the possibility of culpable homicide, which focused on negligence rather than intent.

In this instance, the court had to compare what a reasonable person – with a physical disability, a particular emotional state and a fear of crime – would have done.

“Maybe the court accepts what happens and says he was entitled to shoot four shots. I think that is a long shot.”

Booth praised Masipa for her handling of the matter, saying she had “come across as a very objective person”.

He anticipated that she would be critical of the way the defence had handled the case, in its calling of various witnesses, and its attack on the credibility of forensics and ballistics.

“The majority of the evidence from the defence was possibly a smokescreen. You don’t call witnesses if there is not a reason,” said Booth.

He believed it had harmed the defence that it presented most of the facts of its case during the bail application.

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