Judgment day for Oscar Pistorius

Wed Sep 10, 2014 7:06pm EDT
 
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By Ed Cropley

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - After 41 days of tears, anguish and at times gruesome testimony in the Pretoria High Court, Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee who became one of the biggest names in athletics, will learn this week whether he will spend the next 25 years behind bars.

In a fitting reminder of how South Africa has changed in the 20 years since apartheid, the fate of Pistorius, a wealthy white man from privileged roots, rests in the hands of a 66-year-old black woman from Soweto, Judge Thokozile Masipa.

Throughout the on-off six-month trial, Masipa - only the second black woman to rise to the bench in South Africa - has remained calm and impassive, seemingly impervious to the global interest in a case that has drawn comparisons to the 1995 murder trial of American football star OJ Simpson in California.

For Pistorius, the options when Masipa starts delivering her judgment on Thursday, winding up probably on Friday, are stark.

If she sides with the state, which argues that he murdered his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in a fit of rage on Valentine's Day last year, he faces a mandatory life term - effectively 25 years behind bars before eligible for parole.

A conviction of murder with less explicit intent could still see him incarcerated for up to 20 years.

Alternatively, Masipa could reject any notion of intent but still rule culpable homicide, equivalent to Britain's manslaughter, for the reckless or negligent killing of Steenkamp, who was shot through a toilet door at Pistorius's luxury Pretoria home.

Or she could accept Pistorius's assertion that he acted in 'putative' self-defense, firing four shots from a 9mm pistol through the door in the mistaken but genuine belief that an intruder was lurking behind it.   Continued...

 
Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius (L) leaves after the closing arguments in his murder trial at the high court in Pretoria August 8, 2014. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko