Wednesday, October 15, 2014
I do not agree with Judge Masipa’s reasoning and I write to clear up confusion.
There are four legal rules involved in determining Oscar Pistorius’s legal responsibility for Reeva Steenkamp’s death.
1) Dolus eventualis;
2) Transferred intent;
3) Presumption of innocence; and
Dolus eventualis basically means that a person intends the natural and probable consequences of their acts because they are reasonably foreseeable.
Death was a natural and probable consequence to anyone, regardless of their identity, who was behind the wooden door in a confined area with nowhere to hide like the toilet cubicle in Oscar Pistorius’s house, when he fired 4 shots at point blank range with a 9 mm semiautomatic loaded with Black Talon ammunition through the door. For that reason, that consequence should have been reasonably foreseeable to Pistorius when he fired the shots.
Transferred intent means that, even if Pistorius did not intend to kill Reeva and he believed an intruder was behind the door when he fired the shots, his intent to kill the intruder transfers by operation of law to intent to kill her.
The presumption of innocence means that a person cannot be convicted solely on the basis of a presumption that he intended to kill the person behind the door. There must be actual evidence that he intended to kill.
Here, there is circumstantial evidence that he intended to kill based on the type of ammunition used, the number of shots, their spacing and trajectory, and finally the distance from which the shots were fired.
Finally, self-defense can be ruled out because the person behind the door did not threaten to kill Pistorius and did not attempt to open the door and attack him. Therefore, he was not in imminent danger of death or serious injury when he fired the shots. His use of deadly force was not reasonably necessary.
Therefore, whether he actually intended to kill Reeva is not relevant to the issue of guilt, although it may be a relevant consideration at sentencing.
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