Oscar Pistorius convicted of murder in South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  Dec. 3, 2015 at 7:47 AM
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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of murder after South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal overturned a controversial manslaughter verdict.

Pistorius, 29, killed Reeva Steenkamp, his girlfriend of three months, in 2013 when he shot at her four times when she was in a locked bathroom. He said he believed there was an intruder in his Pretoria home and acted in self defense.

Steenkamp was struck once in the head. The court ruled Thursday a lower court did not correctly apply the rule of dolus eventualis -- if Pistorius knew death would be a likely consequence of his actions.

Court Justice Eric Leach said since Pistorius armed himself with a high-caliber weapon, he must have known that whoever was behind his locked bathroom door may die.

"As a matter of common sense at the time the fatal shots were fired, the possibility of the death of the person behind the door was clearly an obvious result," Leach said when announcing the ruling. "And in firing not one but four shots, such a result became even more likely."

Leach compared the killing to someone setting off a bomb in public and not knowing who the victims might be, adding that Pistorius' claim of an intrusion was "irrelevant to his guilt."

The judge also said Pistorius' life was not in danger, particularly since he did not know who was behind the bathroom door or if they were a threat.

Pistorius did "not take that most elementary precaution of firing a warning shot," Leach said.

The minimum sentence for murder in South Africa is 15 years. Pistorius will have to return to court sometime next year to receive a new sentence.

Pistorius can challenge the ruling in a constitutional court if he can argue his constitutional rights were violated.

Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide in September 2014 and began serving a five-year sentence the following month. He was transferred to house arrest a year later but will return to jail after the murder conviction.

Pistorius' legs were amputated when he was 11 months old because he was born without calf bones, or fibulas. He was fitted with prosthetics, later became an athlete and gained Olympic fame as a sprinter dubbed "Blade Runner," earning gold in multiple events.

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