News

Ilse de Lange
3 minute read
11 Sep 2014
3:07 pm

Oscar Pistorius negligent in Reeva’s death

Ilse de Lange

Oscar Pistorius burst into tears and was consoled by his siblings after Judge Thokozile Masipa on Thursday ruled that he had been grossly negligent when he killed Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's day last year.

An emotional Oscar Pistorius is seen in the dock as judgment is handed down in his murder trial at the High Court in Pretoria on Thursday, 11 September 2014. Pistorius has been acquitted of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. A shaking Pistorius wept as the ruling was made.Picture: Phill Magakoe/Independent Newspapers/ Pool

Reeva’s parents Barry and June and other family members and friends did not show a lot of emotion, although some were seen to be frowning.

The Judge earlier today ruled that the state had not proved that Pistorius was guilty of murder in any form – either premeditated murder or of murder with indirect intent.

Pistorius from the start maintained that Reeva’s death was a terrible accident and he fired shots at the door believing an intruder was about to attack them.

Judge Masipa ruled that a reasonable person in the same circumstances, with the same disability as Pistorius, would have foreseen the possibility that someone could be killed and would have taken reasonable steps to prevent such an occurrence.

She said although the defence tried to persuade the court that Pistorius’ disability rendered him vulnerable, which was why he armed himself with a firearm that morning.

“Vulnerability is not unique as millions of people in this country can fit into that category,” she said.

She said as a fight rather than flight type of personality Pistorius would not have been expected to run from danger, but there were many other means he could have used to deal with the danger.

All he had to do was to pick up his cellphone and call security or the police.

He could have run to the balcony and screamed for help in the same way he screamed after the shooting.

He was able to call security after the incident and gave no reason or explanation why he did not do so before venturing into the bathroom with a loaded firearm, she added.

The defence argued that Pistorius had grown up in a crime-riddled environment and in a home where his mother was paranoid about security, which placed him in a unique category of people and would explain his conduct.

“I agree that his conduct may be better understood by looking at his background… However, it’s just an explanation. It does not excuse the conduct of the accused.

“Many people have experienced crime or the effects thereof at some time or another. Many have been victims of violent crimes but have not resorted to sleeping with firearms under their pillows,” she said.

The Judge said if Pistorius had woken up in the middle of the night in darkness with the silhouette of a person hovering next to his bed and shot that person in panic, his conduct would have been understandable as he would have been faced with a real emergency.

“In this instance it was not case. He had reasonable time to reflect, think and conduct himself reasonably.

“…I am not persuaded that a reasonable person with his disabilities in same circumstances would have fired four shots into that small toilet cubile.

“…A reasonable person would have foreseen if he fired shots at the door, the person inside the toilet might be struck and might die as a result.

“The accused knew there was a person behind toilet door. He chose to use a firearm, a lethal weapon. He was competent in use of firearms as he had undergone some training,” she said.

“…I am of the view he acted too hastily and used excessive force.

“It is clear his conduct was negligent,” Judge Masipa said.

The Judge will only deal with the other charges of negligently firing a firearm in a public place on two occasions and the unlawful possession of ammunition tomorrow.