What will Thokozile Masipa decide?

2014-09-11 00:00

THE murder case against Oscar Pistorius has four probable verdicts:

• Acquittal:

If Judge Thokozile Masipa accepts Pistorius’s version and one of his two defences, he can be acquitted. If she finds that he:

a) acted in putative self defence or

b) acted involuntarily because of his vulnerability and increased vigilance when he shot through the door, she can acquit him.

• Culpable homicide:

This only comes into question if Masipa accepts Pistorius’s version that there was an intruder behind the door.

She can for example find that his version of the night’s events is true, but that he was negligent, because he did not, for example, fire a warning shot. In such a case she will rule about the degree of negligence, which will impact on the sentence.

If Masipa however rejects Pistorius’s version about the night’s events, culpable homicide is no longer on the table.

• Murder:

If Masipa rejects his defence of putative self defence and involuntary actions, but still accepts his version that he thought there was an intruder behind the door, she can still find him guilty of murder (dolus eventualis).

Dolus eventualis is a legal term that indicates he knew there was a human behind the door and should have foreseen that he could kill that person if he fired four shots through the door. A murder verdict under dolus eventualis would also apply if Masipa rules that the state did not prove premeditated murder beyond all reasonable doubt.

• Premeditated murder:

If Masipa rejects his version and accepts the state’s version, she may rule as follows:

He a) knew it was Steenkamp behind the door, b) planned to kill her,

c) had armed himself with the intent to kill her, d) had time to think about his actions, but

e) still proceeded to kill her in cold blood.

In such a case she can find him guilty of premeditated murder.

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