Tuesday, December 9, 2013
Judge Masipa heard arguments this morning from prosecution and defense in the Oscar Pistorius case regarding whether she should grant the prosecution’s request to appeal from her decision finding him not guilty of murder and the five year sentence she imposed for culpable homicide. She will announce her decision tomorrow morning at 3:30 am EST.
The applicable legal rule in South Africa permits the prosecution to appeal her conclusions of law, but not her findings of fact.
She found as fact that Pistorius did not intend to kill Steenkamp when he fired four shots through the wooden door of the toilet cubicle in the bathroom just off the master bedroom because he believed she was in bed. The toilet cubicle is a confined area only slightly larger than the toilet. Pistorius testified that he thought an intruder was in the cubicle behind the door when he fired the gun, a 9 millimeter semiautomatic with Black Talon ammunition that has sharpened metal wings that fold out from the bullet due to centrifugal force as the it spins out of the gun barrel. Needless to say, the bullet causes a gruesome devastating injury even if it does not hit a vital organ.
The prosecution argues that it does not matter if Pistorius intended to kill Steenkamp because he must have foreseen that firing four shots through the wooden door would kill or seriously injure the person behind the door, regardless who that person was. Pursuant to the doctrine of dolus eventualis in South Africa, the identity of the person killed is not relevant so long as the killer intended to kill someone or was aware of a substantial risk that the person behind the door would be killed.
The prosecution also argued that the five year sentence was too light and should be increased.
The defense argued that the prosecution should not be permitted to appeal because Judge Masipa found as fact that he did not intend to kill anyone. They also argued that the sentence was appropriate.
Pistorius was not in court for the hearing, Neither his family nor the Steenkamps attended the hearing.
Here’s a video of today’s hearing.