Justice Leach delivers his verdict in the courtroom n Bloemfontein, South Africa, Dec. 3, 2015, and finds athlete Oscar Pistorius guilty of murder – overturning his previous conviction of culpable homicide.
In calm, detailed language, he methodically dismantled Judge Thokozile Masipa’s original ruling and concluded on behalf of the five-judge panel that Pistorius should have been convicted of murder for his actions that led to the death of his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day 2013.
Instead just short of a year following the conviction, he was released into the custody of an uncle to serve house arrest.
In acquitting Pistorius of murder, Masipa ruled that Pistorius could not have anticipated that someone might die before he shot four times through a door into a toilet cubicle, killing Steenkamp.
Witz says it comes down to what aspects of the case each judge focuses on.
Her father, Barry, speaking from Port Elizabeth, said his family could finally get on with their lives.
Steenkamp’s mother June, who has said she does not want retribution, attended the court session. Sentencing is a matter that will be settled by a different court.
However, an appeals court has now overturned the original verdict, meaning he will have to return to court to be re-sentenced for murder.
There are more legal battles to come, however – first a sentencing hearing on the new murder conviction, and then a possible constitutional court hearing.
Pistorius was on trial for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, a person he had never knowingly fired a shot at.
“It is inconceivable that a rational person thought he was entitled to fire at this person with a heavy-duty firearm”, said Judge Leach, who described Pistorius’ testimony as “vacillating and untruthful”. She convicted him of culpable homicide – manslaughter in our courts – and he served 10 months in jail.
He could appeal on the basis that his Constitutional rights have been violated. There’s a minimum 15 years sentence for murder, but there is judicial discretion on this if there are compelling circumstances. They said he meant to kill Steenkamp and that she had fled to the toilet during a row.
It is refreshing and empowering that the South African Supreme Court, in a case cluttered with celebrity and the ceaseless dispute over Pistorius’ state of mind, has been able to boil it down to the pure responsibility and consequences of a human pointing a gun at another human and pulling the trigger four times.
In a short statement, Pistorius’s family said they will be guided by Pistorius’s legal team in terms of their next steps.
Members of the ruling African National Congress party’s Women’s League welcomed the new ruling, dancing and singing outside the court.