Oscar & Reeva: 'A human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions'

2015-12-03 12:10
Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp pictured at the 2012 Feather Awards.

Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp pictured at the 2012 Feather Awards. (Lucky Nxumalo, AFP)

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Pistorius convicted of murder: here's everything you need to know

2015-12-03 11:19

Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of murder by the Supreme Court of Appeal. Here's everything you need to know.WATCH

Bloemfontein – Now that Oscar Pistorius has been convicted of murder, the world will be watching as a trial court determines an appropriate sentence.

The Supreme Court of Appeal on Thursday described the case as a “human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions”, in overturning his culpable homicide conviction for Reeva Steenkamp's death.

"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 Eric Leach said.

“To go to jail for 15 years or not,” is the matter that the High Court in Pretoria will now have to decide after the SCA referred the case back to the trial court.

The court will arrive at a sentence after listening to arguments from both the State and defence. The defence may well present “substantial and compelling circumstances” that support a lesser sentence.

Errors in law

The SCA found on Thursday that Judge Thokozile Masipa made a number of errors in law in arriving at a culpable homicide conviction.

Leach said it was clear that Pistorius should have foreseen the deadly impact his four bullets would have in a small bathroom.

He said Pistorius was “well-trained in using firearms” and “never offered an acceptable explanation” for firing not one, but four shots.

Considering the nature of the deadly firearm, the number of shots fired and the tiny space of the toilet cubicle, the SCA said Pistorius must have foreseen the risk of death but proceeded nonetheless.

“The identity of the victim is irrelevant to his guilt.”

Leach told a packed court it was a unanimous judgment that Pistorius should be found guilty of murdering Steenkamp.

The SCA ruled in favour of the Director of Public Prosecutions on two questions of law.

Firstly, it found the court incorrectly applied the principles of dolus eventualis (perpetrators foreseeing the risk of death occurring but nevertheless proceeds with the act).

Leach said the issue was not whether Pistorius had foreseen that Reeva might be in the cubicle when he fired but “whether there was a person behind the door who might possibly be killed by his actions”.

Material evidence

The SCA also found there was “an absence of the appreciation of material evidence”.

Leach said the evidence of the police’s ballistics expert Chris Mangena was of “particular importance”.

"There had effectively been nowhere for the deceased to hide."

A sombre June Steenkamp sat next to members of the ANC Women’s League. She stared straight ahead as the judgment was read out.

As a last word on the matter, the SCA said that its findings “should not be seen as an adverse comment” upon Masipa’s competence and ability.

It said she conducted the hearing with “a degree of dignity and patience that is a credit to the judiciary”.

“The fact that the appeal has succeeded is not to be regarded as a slight upon the trial judge who is to be congratulated for the manner in which she conducted the proceedings.”

Read more on:    reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  bloemfontein  |  pistorius trial

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