Oscar Pistorious, the South African athlete who made history when he became the first double amputee sprinter to compete in the summer Olympic games in London in 2012, is seeking to appeal his conviction for murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp on Valentines Day in 2013. In a surprise turn of events last month, the “Blade Runner’s” manslaughter conviction was overturned and replaced by a murder verdict when South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the lower court improperly applied the rule of “dolus eventualis” – whether the athlete knew that his actions would likely result in a death. Although Mr. Pistorious has always maintained his innocence and stated that he believed he was shooting an intruder, Justice Eric Leach rationalized that because Mr. Pistorious was trained in how to use firearms and because he was armed with a high caliber weapon, it is inevitable that he foresaw that someone would die as a result of firing the rifle, thereby justifying a murder ruling.
Mr. Pistorious’ attorneys argue that the appellate court fundamentally erred in overturning the trial court’s factual findings and replacing it with its own contrary factual findings. If the public director of public prosecutions finds there are sufficient grounds to warrant an appeal, the case will go to the South African Constitutional Court.
Mr. Pistorius is currently under house arrest and has already spent a year in jail as part of his original five year sentence.
Loren Shokes is an Entertainment and Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current second year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2017).
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