South Africa appeals court overturns Pistorius verdict, convicts him of murder | News | DW | 03.12.2015
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South Africa appeals court overturns Pistorius verdict, convicts him of murder

Oscar Pistorius faces a longer prison sentence after being ruled guilty of murder. An appeals court in South Africa overturned his former conviction for the lesser crime of culpable homicide.

The South African Supreme Court of Appeal on Thursday found double-amputee track star Oscar Pistorius guilty of murder, overturning a previous verdict convicting him of culpable homicide, which carries a shorter minimum sentence.

Pistorius will now face a possible15-year-sentence, the minimum punishment for murder in South Africa.

Reading the verdict on behalf of a five-judge panel, Judge Eric Leach said the first verdict against Pistorius handed down by Judge Thokozile Masipa in September 2014 contained "fundamental errors."

Steenkamp and Pistorius had been a celebrity couple

Steenkamp and Pistorius had been a celebrity couple

In September 2014, Pistorius, 29, was convicted of manslaughter, or culpable homicide, for the shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on February 14, 2013. He received a prison sentence of five years in addition to a three-year suspended sentence to be served at the same time on a conviction for reckless endangerment.

At the trial, prosecutors said that Pistorius had shot and killed Steenkamp through a bathroom door in his home because of a quarrel, while the defense argued that the shooting had been a mistake, with the former athlete mistaking her for an intruder.

'No rational reason'

Thursday's verdict read by Leach said that Pistorius "must have foreseen the potentially fatal consequences of his actions," something that makes an accused guilty of murder in South African law under the concept of "dolus eventualis." Leach also said that the athlete could have had no rational reason for believing that his life was in danger.

Leichtathletik-WM 2011 Oscar Pistorius

Pistorius (r.) is one of the world's most famous athletes

Pistorius' defense claimed that the runner had a generalized anxiety disorder that led him to overestimate the danger of the situation.

The case has been referred back to the trial court in Pretoria for a new sentence.

Pistorius has been living with his uncle in Pretoria since being released on house arrest in October, performing community service once a fortnight under his conditions of parole.

Prosecutors' appeal

On November 3, 2014, prosecutors delivered arguments at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, maintaining that the judge at Pistorius' murder trial had made an error and that he should have been convicted of murder.

They claimed that the accused must have known that firing into a toilet cubicle four times could cause someone to die. Under South African law, a murder conviction can be handed down if it can be proven that someone had realized the possibility of killing someone through their actions and continued with them nonetheless.

Pistorius, who had part of his lower legs amputated at the age of just 11 months, was the first amputee to take part both in Paralympic and Olympic games. He has popularly been called the "Blade Runner" because of the prosthetic blades he used for running.

tj/sms (AP, Reuters)

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