Oscar's fate now lies in hands of five SCA judges

2015-11-03 21:18
Oscar Pistorius (File, AP)

Oscar Pistorius (File, AP)

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Bloemfontein - Whether Pretoria High Court Judge Thokozile Masipa made errors in applying the law with her Oscar Pistorius judgment, is what five appeal judges will be deliberating on in the next few weeks.

- Read more: Why Oscar's family did not attend appeal hearing

The Supreme Court of Appeal reserved its judgment on Tuesday afternoon after hearing compelling arguments from both the State and defence.

The State brought the application to have Pistorius’s culpable homicide conviction overturned on the basis that the trial court made a number of errors.

It believed that he should have been found guilty of murder for firing four shots through a toilet door at his home on Valentine’s Day in 2013, killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel’s argument was that Masipa had incorrectly applied the dolus eventualis (indirect intent) principle and had not considered all the circumstantial evidence.

Steenkamp’s mom June was part of a packed public gallery that listened to proceedings.

Pistorius’s family did not attend because they wanted the focus to remain on the legal issues, their spokesperson Anneliese Burgess said.

Verdict expected by end of year

Defence lawyer Barry Roux took twice as long to deliver his argument after being grilled by judges, most notably Judge Eric Leach.

- Read more: Oscar appeal: Roux grilled in SCA

Leach noted that Masipa had seemingly only taken into account the possibility that Steenkamp was in the toilet, and not an intruder.

"The issue was not then whether he knew Reeva was behind the door. The issue was that he knew a person was in the cubicle," Leach said.

Roux replied that his client fired shots because he genuinely believed he had been in danger, thus making the identity of the attacker irrelevant.

He also argued that the trial court had correctly considered all the facts and its factual findings were not appealable.

The hordes of local and international journalists were somewhat surprised when the hearing was wrapped up by lunch.

Members of the public and the regional ANC Women’s League had also attended.

No date was set for the verdict, but it was expected to be handed down before the end of the year.

Should the court find in the State’s favour, it was unlikely there would be a retrial.

'Microphones should have been switched off'

Replacing the conviction with murder could see Pistorius, currently under correctional supervision, go to jail for up to 15 years.

Tuesday's proceedings took an unexpected turn. After court adjourned, pool microphones for the broadcast picked up Roux and Nel chatting after proceedings, which had been broadcast live. They can be heard talking, but what they are saying is not clear. But then Roux can clearly be heard saying, "...maar dat ek gaan verloor is feite". (But that I am going to lose is a fact.)

- Read more: Mic should have been switched off - Nel

Nel said he could not comment on the context of Roux's comment, other than that "the microphones should have been switched off".

Brian Webber, Pistorius’s attorney, also could not comment immediately. "I can’t comment until I have seen the whole recording. I am driving now," he said.

Roux did not answer his phone or respond to a text message for clarification.

According to an SCA practice note on media coverage, there was an "absolute bar" on audio recordings of legal representatives. Those who failed to comply could be held in contempt of court.

Read more on:    gerrie nel  |  reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  barry roux  |  thokozile masipa  |  bloemfontein  |  pistorius trial

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