Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide, bail extended

UPDATE: THE judge has granted Oscar Pistorius's application for an extension of bail.

The decision comes after prosecution and defense made arguments around his risk of suicide and the fact that he'd sold his house to pay legal fees.

TODAY 6.31pm: OSCAR Pistorius has been found guilty of firing a gun in a restaurant but acquitted of another charge of shooting through a car's sunroof.

After being cleared of murdering Reeva Steenkamp, the Olympic star will later find out whether he will face a possible 15-jail sentence after being found guilty of culpable homicide.

 

Legal experts question Oscar ruling

LEGAL experts said the state could question a ruling by the South African judge in the case of Oscar Pistorius, who was sensationally cleared yesterday of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

As well as finding the Paralympian not guilty of premeditated murder, Judge Thokozile Masipa also absolved Pistorius, 27, of a lesser murder charge that requires a different concept of intention - known by the legal term "dolus eventualis" - which holds you responsible for the foreseeable consequences of your actions.

Earlier, the defence said the double amputee shot the 30-year-old model as a result of a tragic accident after mistaking her for an intruder hiding behind a locked toilet door.

"Clearly he did not subjectively foresee this as a possibility that he would kill the person behind the door - let alone the deceased - as he thought she was in the bedroom," said Masipa.

But Stephen Tuson, a law professor at Johannesburg's University of Witwatersrand, said the state would arguably be able to appeal on dolus eventualis (which is Latin for "indirect intent").

"How can you shoot four bullets through a door and not foresee their death?," he told Bloomberg News.

"Arguably, there's a possibility of an appeal by the state if they believe that she [Masipa] erred on a question of law."

However, the practising criminal barrister added: "I think the verdict on premeditated murder is acceptable and well reasoned and not a surprise."

Meanwhile, Professor James Grant, of the same university, said: "The problem is that Masipa has found that he did not intend to kill. But that is not the question and it was not his defence," he told The Citizen.

"It seems as if she arrived at the conclusion by making a mistake of law relating to whether it matters who was behind the door."

Prof Grant added that it did not matter who was behind the door but that Pistorius shot at the door with intention.

While premeditated murder carries a minimum jail term of 25 years, dolus eventualis - also known as common murder - can lead to a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Pistorius now faces a troubled night after Masipa adjourned for the day before ruling on a charge of culpable homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.

He had been accused of deliberately shooting his girlfriend during a furious row at his Pretoria home on Valentine's Day last year.

But he had always maintained - often through wails of despair and vomiting - that he shot the law graduate in self-defence after mistaking her for an intruder.

Judge Masipa went on to address a lesser charge of culpable homicide - similar to manslaughter - saying the runner had been "negligent" when he fired the fatal shots.

She told the court that Pistorius had acted "hastily" and with "too much force" but in a moment of high drama abruptly adjourned proceedings for the day before reaching a verdict.

The Paralympian sat sobbing in the dock with tears streaming down his cheeks as the judge delivered her not guilty verdicts for murder and pre-meditated murder.

Delivering her verdict yesterday, Judge Masipa criticised Pistorius's decision to reach for his 9mm pistol and fire it through the toilet cubicle rather than raise the alarm or fire a warning shot.

She said: "There were other means available to you to deal with threats to life.

"All the accused had to do was pick up his cell phone and ring security or run to the balcony and call for help.

"Many people in this country have experienced crime or the effects thereof, directly or indirectly at some time or another."Many have been victims of violent crime but have not resorted to sleeping with firearms under their pillows.

"If the accused, for example, had awoken in the middle of the night and in darkness seen a silhouette by his bed and in a panic shot at that figure, only to find it was the deceased, his conduct would have been understandable and perhaps excusable.

"In such a situation he would not have been expected to call security first as he would be faced with a real emergency."

She added: "The accused had reasonable time to think, reflect and conduct himself.

"I'm not persuaded that a reasonable person with the same disability would have fired the four shots."The accused knew there was a person behind the toilet door, he chose to use a firearm.

"Would a reasonable person in the same circumstances as the accused have foreseen the possibility that if he fired four shots whoever was behind the toilet might be struck and die as a result?

"Would a reasonable person in the same circumstances as the accused have guarded against that possibility? The answer to both questions is yes.

"Did the accused fail to take steps which he should have reasonably taken to guard against the consequence? Again the answer is yes.

"I am of the view the accused acted too hastily and used too much force. It is clear his conduct is negligent."

- NZ Herald and INM


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