“Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius has been convicted of murder.
He now faces 15 years in prison after a South African appeals court overturned his earlier manslaughter conviction in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, through a locked bathroom door.
All five justices presiding over the case at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein unanimously agreed on the verdict. Judge Lorimer Eric Leach said the double-amputee track star was responsible for the “Shakespearean” tragedy, which occurred on Valentine’s day in 2013.
This case involves a human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions: a young man overcomes huge physical disabilities to reach Olympic 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.
Pistorius, 29, claimed he he fired four shots from a high-caliber pistol, shooting and accidentally killing Steenkamp in their Pretoria home because he thought she was a home intruder.
Originally, in one of the biggest murder trials watched by eyes all around the world, Judge Masipa found Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide (akin to manslaughter) rather than premeditated murder. She ruled that he didn’t intend to kill anyone when he pulled the trigger, and sentenced him to five years in prison. He spent a year behind bars, and is currently serving his sentence under house arrest and performing community service.
In the new ruling, Judge Leach said that Pistorius “never offered an acceptable explanation” for his actions, basing their new ruling upon dolus eventualis, or legal intention.
“In these circumstances, the accused must have foreseen and, therefore, did foresee that whoever was behind the toilet door might die,” Judge Leach said, “but reconciled himself to that even occurring and gambled with that person’s life. The identity of his victim is irrelevant to his guilt.”
A murder conviction in South Africa carries a 15-year minimum prison sentence. He will remain in his Uncle’s house in Pretoria under house arrest until his sentencing next year.
Steenkamp’s mother June was present at the hearing, and told NBC, “I wanted respect for my daughter’s life and that’s what I got today, a conviction of murder. I feel so proud now that she’s got some respect and she hasn’t lost her life for nothing. She’ll be remembered.”
Pistorius was not present. His family said in a statement that they have “taken note” of the appeals court’s ruling. “The legal team will study the finding, and we will be guided by them in terms of options going forward,” they commented.