The Oscar Pistorius verdict: what the experts say


Judge Thokozile Masipa will start handing down judgement in the murder trial of paralympian Oscar Pistorius, accused of shooting dead his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, in the High Court in Pretoria on Thursday.

Below is a compilation of quotes from legal experts on what to expect.

"If he [Pistorius] is convicted of murder in circumstances under which the murder was premeditated there is a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, unless the court finds substantial and compelling reasons why it should deviate from the mandatory sentence.

"For murder there is no prescribed sentence, and depending on his personal circumstances and the seriousness of the offence the court could sentence him to anything from life imprisonment to a wholly suspended sentence," he said. -- Wits School of Law Professor Stephen Tuson "To be very clear the only opinions that really count are those of the judge and assessors," she said.

'If convicted of murder I think it is unlikely he would get life in prison'

"The case of premeditation is almost entirely based on the evidence of a single [State] witness, Estelle van Der Merwe who said she heard the voices of a man and woman between 1am and 2am that sounded like an argument.

"I think there is a good chance on the basis of the heads [of argument] that they [the defence] have met that evidential burden and highlighted holes in the State case.

"If convicted of murder I think it is unlikely he would get life in prison, only premeditated murder would trigger a potential life sentence and even then there are mitigating circumstances that a court considers before issuing the life sentence."

-- Senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town, Kelly Phelps

"I don't think the State have enough case for premeditated murder. There is no definition of premeditated murder in South Africa so you go to case law and see if it is murder with a degree of planning.

"I don't think if they have enough evidence except that there was a witness who said she heard shouting before the time.

"The defence argued very well, but I don't know if their evidence will stand up. Their client let them down because he was not a good witness."

-- Lawyer with the Bridge Group, Mannie Witz

"I think there is quite a significant risk that Oscar could be convicted of murdering the intruder.

"He could have fired a warning shot. On the other version, even if the court finds that is acceptable... I think he is going to have a problem.

"The majority of the evidence from the defence was possibly a smokescreen. You don't call witnesses if there is not a reason."

-- Defence lawyer William Booth


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