Oscar Pistorius’s Sentence Upgraded To Murder

The South African state won its appeal against the initial culpable homicide sentence handed to the athlete for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Oscar Pistorius listens to his original judgment in Pretoria, Oct. 21. Pool / Getty Images

Olympic and Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius had his sentence for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013 upgraded to murder in South Africa’s Supreme Court in Bloemfontein Thursday morning.

Appeal Judge Lorimer Eric Leach said the verdict by the case’s original judge, Thokozile Masipa — which led to Pistorius being found guilty of culpable homicide, or manslaughter — in October 2014, was “fundamentally flawed.”

“He ought to have been convicted not of culpable homicide, but murder,” Leach said.

Judge Eric Leach delivers his judgement in the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, Dec. 3 Pool / Reuters

In his opening remarks, Judge Leach said the case was a “human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.”

“A young man overcomes huge physical disabilities to reach Olympian heights as an athlete. In doing so he becomes an international celebrity, he meets a young woman of great natural beauty and a successful model, romance blossoms, and then, ironically on Valentine’s Day, all is destroyed when he takes her life,” he said, according to NBC News.

Reeva’s mother June Steenkamp (center) sits in the court, Dec. 3. Pool / Reuters

Leach ruled that a retrial would be “wholly impractical” and not in the interests of justice, and said Pistorius should face resentencing. He said Pistorius “should be convicted for the actual crime [he’s] committed.”

Pistorius was not in the court, and is currently under house arrest, having served nearly a year of his initial five-year sentence.

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The key argument in the appeal was whether Masipa correctly applied the principle of dolus eventualis — whether Pistorius had foreseen that the outcome of shooting through a locked bathroom door would result in Steenkamp’s death.

Leach said Masipa’s application of dolus eventualis was “confusing”, and said he had “no doubt that in firing four shots, the accused resigned himself to the outcome of death and gambled with the life of victim.”

Reeva Steenkamp’s mother, June, who has maintained that the original sentence handed to Pistorius was not long enough, was present in the court.

She celebrated the result of the appeal outside the courtroom with the ANC Women’s League, who supported her throughout the trial process.

Leach also emphasized that his verdict was not intended as a criticism of Judge Masipa, saying she is a “credit to the judiciary” and should be “congratulated for the manner in which she conducted the proceedings.”

In a statement released after the appeal verdict, the Pistorius family said: “We have taken note of the judgement that has been handed down by the Supreme Court of Appeal. The legal team will study the finding and we will be guided by them in terms of options going forward. We will not be commenting further at this stage.”

Pistorius will spend Christmas under house arrest, and is likely to face resentencing from Masipa in the new year, according to the BBC.

A murder sentence carries a minimum of 15 years’ imprisonment in South Africa.

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