‘He cannot be found guilty’

2014-03-03 00:00

OSCAR Pistorius will be declared not guilty of both murder and culpable homicide, predicts legal expert, Professor Tom Coetzee of the North West University.

He said this was because Pistorius’s defence had never been one of self-defence, but that he had acted like a reasonable man who had no intention to kill.

In reading the 11 pages of the paralympic athlete’s defence, submitted to the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court a year ago in support of bail, Coetzee said the crux of Pistorius’s defence was that he did not shoot with the intent to kill someone.

Pistorius set out in fine detail what led to the fatal shooting of Reeva Steenkamp in his house in the early hours of Valentine’s Day a year ago.

Pistorius said in his bail application he had felt “terribly vulnerable” when he suspected an intruder was hiding in his toilet.

“I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself. I believed I was in extreme danger.”

He shot through the door, fatally wounding Steenkamp.

Coetzee said Pistorius’s defence was never meant to be one of self-defence, because there was never an intruder in the house. This meant there was never a threatened illegal attack on him nor had such an attack just taken place — both requirements to plead self defence.

“His defence was that he did not have the intention to kill.

“Intent requires the will to do something with the knowledge that the action is against the law. Both the will and knowledge must be present for intent to exist.”

Coetzee said Pistorius’s belief that there was an intruder in his toilet would negate the legal requirement of knowing that shooting through the door would be illegal.

Coetzee said because this second element of an intention to kill is absent, Pistorius could not have committed murder, because both elements have to be present during an action to prove murder.

“By implication Pistorius said he acted like a reasonable man would have done in the same circumstance and that he was not negligent.

“Negligence is a requirement to prove culpable homicide. If negligence is absent, he cannot be found guilty of culpable homicide.

“He will be declared not guilty on the charges of murder and culpable homicide,” said Coetzee.

Coetzee said Pistorius’s credibility and forensic evidence will play an important part in the case.

Professor Annette van der Merwe of the Department of Criminal Procedure at the University of Pretoria also said Pistorius can be found not guilty of murder if his version that he had to take a life to protect a life can be proven to be reasonably true.

Pistorius must, however, explain why he believed his life was in danger when he fired four shots through the closed toilet door.

Pistorius had said in his statement he was not wearing his prosthetic limbs when he fired the shots at what he believed was an intruder, hitting Steenkamp instead.

Van der Merwe said the question was whether Pistorius’s actions could be justified.

Advocate Johann Engelbrecht SC, a criminal procedure specialist, said the court will look objectively and taking into account all the evidence in the court, whether the accused’s version could be true. If so, the accused will be acquitted.

“If the accused, however, thought his life was in danger while a reasonable person would not have thought so, that accused would be negligent and guilty of culpable homicide.”

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