Oscar Pistorius Must Have Known His Shots Would Kill, Court Hears

  • Prosecutors challenge manslaughter ruling in Supreme Court
  • Paralympian shot girlfriend Steenkamp on Valentine's Day 2013

Oscar Pistorius knew he would kill someone when he fired four shots through a toilet door at his home, prosecutors told the South African Supreme Court of Appeal on Tuesday as they sought to have the Paralympian gold medalist convicted of murder for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius’s account of the events leading to the shooting was contradictory, while High Court Judge Thokozile Masipa ignored the testimony of witnesses and experts about what happened in the early hours of Valentine’s Day two years ago, state prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court. Masipa handed down a five-year jail sentence in October last year for the lesser charge of culpable homicide, or manslaughter, of Steenkamp, who Pistorius said he thought was an intruder in his bathroom.

The court’s President, Lex Mpati, reserved judgment. The judges may deliver their ruling before the start of a recess on Nov. 30, said Paul Myburgh, the registrar of the Bloemfontein-based court.

Nel and the legal team defending Pistorius, 28, faced off in front of five judges in televised proceedings after the athlete was released under house arrest last month. Pistorius, the first double amputee to compete at the Olympic Games, was absent from the court, while Steenkamp’s mother, June, attended the proceedings.

“The court should’ve rejected his evidence as impossible, if the court took into account the circumstantial evidence,” Nel said. “The court should’ve rejected his evidence because he was a poor witness. Then all that remains is objective facts. On the objective facts, the accused cannot escape a conviction of murder.”

Masipa’s judgment ruled out murder because she was convinced by the testimony of Pistorius that he “genuinely believed” there was an intruder in his home, Barry Roux, who is leading the defense, told the court.

‘Poor Witness’

“Although I don’t like you -- I think you are a poor witness -- I understand the onus and I give you the benefit of the doubt and I bring out the factual finding in your favor,” Roux said, explaining Masipa’s reasoning.

Judge Lorimer Leach asked Roux whether Pistorius had any other reason to believe his life was in danger apart from hearing a noise.

“Who would be in your house 3 a.m. if I find that you genuinely believed that the deceased was in the bedroom?” Roux responded.

Nel said it was irrelevant whether Pistorius thought there was an intruder in the bathroom.

“It is not necessary to find why he shot,” Nel said. “What we have to know is he did shoot in circumstances where he had foresight.”

Should the appeal judges change the verdict to murder, they will have to refer the matter back to the high court for sentencing, Justice Stevan Majiedt said.

“It would just be fair,” Nel said. “Other evidence will be led by the state and by the defense if we have a different conviction.” He has described Pistorius’s five-year jail term as “shockingly inappropriate.”

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