11 important quotes from the SCA's judgment against Oscar Pistorius

2015-12-03 14:06
Oscar Pistorius (AFP)

Oscar Pistorius (AFP)

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Pistorius convicted of murder: 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 - The Supreme Court of Appeal on Thursday replaced former Paralympian Oscar Pistorius’s culpable homicide conviction with one of murder for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Here are 11 important quotes from the judgment handed down by Justice Eric Leach -

1) On the tragedy of the incident:
"This case involves a human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions: 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."
2) The media coverage of the trial:
"The proceedings in the trial court were attended by unprecedented publicity. As far as I am aware, for the first time in the history of this country the trial was covered on live television (as was the appeal in this court)."

3) On Reeva and Oscar's relationship:
"As so often happens with romantic relationships, especially in their youthful stages, theirs was attended by petty conflict and tensions as evidenced by a transcript of text messages that had passed between them that was handed in as an exhibit at the trial. But despite these hiccups, the deceased at times slept over at the accused’s home.

"She did so on the night of 13 February 2013. In the early hours of the following morning, screams, gunshots, loud noises and cries for help were heard, emanating from the accused’s house."

4) On Oscar's story 'changing':  
"With ample justification, the court found the accused to have been ‘a very poor witness’. His version varied substantially. At the outset he stated that he had fired the four shots ‘before I knew it’ and at a time when he was not sure if there was somebody in the toilet. This soon changed to a version that he had fired as he believed that whoever was in the toilet was going to come out to attack him.

"He later changed this to say that he had never intended to shoot at all; that he had not fired at the door on purpose and that he had not wanted to shoot at any intruder coming out of the toilet. In the light of these contradictions, one really does not know what his explanation is for having fired the fatal shots..."

5) On Oscar's lack of an acceptable explanation for shooting:
"He is a person well-trained in the use of firearms and was holding his weapon at the ready in order to shoot. He paused at the entrance to the bathroom and when he became aware that there was a person in the toilet cubicle, he fired four shots through the door. And he never offered an acceptable explanation for having done so."  

6) On High Court judge Thokozile Masipa applying the principle of dolus eventualis (perpetrators foreseeing the risk of death occurring but nevertheless proceeding with the act) to find Oscar guilty of culpable homicide:
"I find the reasoning...  to be confusing in various respects... The issue was not what was reasonably foreseeable when the accused fired at the toilet door but whether he actually foresaw that death might occur when he did so.

"The conclusion of the trial court that the accused had not foreseen the possibility of death occurring as he had not had the direct intent to kill, shows that an incorrect test was applied."

7) On whether dolus eventualis can be applied when someone does not "know" the identity of their victim:  
"In this regard, it is necessary to stress that although a perpetrator’s intention to kill must relate to the person killed, this does not mean that a perpetrator must know or appreciate the identity of the victim. A person who causes a bomb to explode in a crowded place will probably be ignorant of the identity of his or her victims, but will nevertheless have the intention to kill those who might die in the resultant explosion.

"...By confining its assessment of dolus eventualis to whether the accused had foreseen that it was Reeva behind the door, the trial court misdirected itself as to the appropriate legal issue."

8) On the high court failing to take evidence into account:
"In this regard, the failure of the court to take into account the evidence of Captain [Chris] Mangena, a police forensic expert, whose evidence as to the reconstruction of the crime scene was found by the court to have been ‘particularly useful’, is of particular importance.

"All of this was circumstantial evidence crucial to a decision on whether the accused, at the time he fired the fatal four shots, must have foreseen, and therefore did foresee, the potentially fatal consequences of his action. And yet this evidence was seemingly ignored by the trial court in its assessment of the presence of dolus eventualis. Had it been taken into account, the decision in regard to the absence of dolus eventualis may well have been different. In the light of the authorities I have mentioned, to seemingly disregard it must be regarded as an error in law."

9) On the weapon used:
"A person is far more likely to foresee the possibility of death occurring where the weapon used is a lethal firearm (as in the present case) than, say, a pellet gun unlikely to do serious harm."

10)  On the culpable homicide conviction being set aside:
"As a result of the errors of law referred to, and on a proper appraisal of the facts, he ought to have been convicted not of culpable homicide on that count but of murder. In the interests of justice the conviction and the sentence imposed in respect thereof must be set aside and the conviction substituted with a conviction of the correct offence."

11) On how the SCA judgment is not a comment on Masipa's competence:
"The trial was conducted in the glare of international attention and the focus of television cameras which must have added to the inherently heavy rigors that are brought to bear upon trial courts in conducting lengthy and complicated trials.

The trial judge conducted the hearing with a degree of dignity and patience that is a credit to the judiciary. The fact that this court has determined that certain mistakes were made should not be seen as an adverse comment upon her competence and ability."

Read more on:    reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  thokozile masipa  |  crime  |  pistorius trial  |  judiciary

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