By Dillon R. Fulcher, Esq.
Today, a South African Judge ruled that Oscar Pistorius, Paralympia and Olympian, was guilty of culpable homicide, a crime roughly equivalent to negligent homicide in the United States. This verdict was a continuation of the verdict read yesterday where Mr. Pistorius was found not guilty of murder.
On Valentine's Day last year Mr. Pistorius was arrested in connection with the shooting of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. She was found in the bathroom of his house, having been shot three times by Mr. Pistorius. The verdict given today is in accord with the events as described by Mr. Pisotirius. His affidavit stated that he and his girlfriend went to bed early on February 13 th and he woke up in the middle of the night believing that he heard an intruder in his bathroom. He yelled for Reeva Steenkamp to call the police while he moved towards the bathroom without his prosthesis. He then shot through the door and returned to his room to don his prosthesis; it was then that he noticed that his girlfriend was not in bed and he rushed to the bathroom and began to beat it down with a cricket bat.
The South African prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, told a completely different story at trial, namely, that the shooting was Oscar Pistorius' way to resolve an argument the couple was having on February 14 th.
Regardless of the arguments made at trial, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. The case of Oscar Pistorius highlights a situation where the prosecution failed to meet that burden in a situation where the point of contention was not that the defendant committed an act, but whether the defendant intended to commit the act. The prosecution attempted to give evidence showing that Mr. Pistorius intended or planned to kill Reeva Steenkamp specifically. However, Judge Masipa found their evidence lacking, "it cannot be said that the accused did not entertain a genuine belief that there was an intruder."  While reading the guilty verdict, Judge Masipa said that Mr. Pistorius "had acted negligently when he fired through the bathroom door, but in the belief that there was an intruder."
There are no jury trials in South Africa, Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa, with the help of her two aids, is completely responsible for rendering a verdict and sentencing Oscar Pistorius. The Judge has allowed Mr. Pistorius to remain on bail until his sentencing on October 13 th. He faces a maximum of 15 years for the crime of culpable homicide with experts believing that he will face between 7 and 10 years.
If you are facing criminal charges, it is important that you obtain legal representation. An attorney will ensure that the prosecution meets their burden of proof at trial. An experienced and aggressive litigator can have the charges against you dropped or diminished if the prosecution cannot prove your mental state or intention.
To speak with an attorney about your criminal case, contact our Feldmann Nagel, LLC criminal defense team toll-free at (888) 458-0991.