January 15, 2016 in Oscar Pistorius Trial
In March of 2014 the High Court of South Africa opened the trial of Oscar Pistorius for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. He was also charged with several gun related charges, and in September of 2014 a verdict of not guilty was returned on the murder charge, but guilty of the culpable homicide (unlawful negligent killing of a human being) and reckless endangerment with a firearm. Pistorius received a sentence of five years for the homicide and three year suspended prison sentence for the separate reckless endangerment conviction.
Pistorius won fame as a South African runner with a disability competing at high levels. He competed at multiple Paralympic Games including the 2012 Summer Olympics. Steenkamp was his girlfriend and was shot by Pistorius who claimed he thought she was an intruder. When he was taken into custody, Pistorius admitted shooting her but claimed he did not realize it was her.
Brenda Wardle is Chief of Operations of the Wardle College of Law and a journalist. She covered the trial extensively. Proceedings of the trial were played out in the international media and Pistorius almost got away with the murder. Wardle, a legal analyst, was critical of the whole thing from the beginning and knew it was not being handled properly by either side. She helped the public see how terribly the government was handling the trial.
Wardle was able to turn public opinion so that the pressure stayed on the prosecution until Pistorius finally received real jail time. She continuously kept the public updated on the trial while keeping her personal opinion out of her posts. She appeared on TV almost every day and unraveled the story Pistorius was telling by showing how ridiculous it was without twisting words. Through her updates people took a look for themselves on the information being given through the trial.
With this increased pressure being applied by the public with Wardle’s encouragement, the defense filed papers in September 2015 arguing the judge’s findings that Pistorius did not intend to kill Steenkamp. This argument was not allowed. The parole review board put off their decision for two weeks.
At the end of September 2015 the Supreme Court of Appeal confirmed the appeal and in November when they met they overturned the verdict. The verdict was upgraded to a conviction of murder, stating the lower court did not apply the rule of dolus eventualis and the claim that Pistorius was making about fearing for his life was not justified.
Pistorius will remain free on bail and can only travel within 20km of his house during the hours of 7 a.m. and noon. He will appeal the conviction in South Africa’s Constitutional Court. If the higher court does not agree to hear the appeal, he will be back in court in April 2016.