Thursday, December 3, 2015

Sentence for Oscar Pistorius to triple in length? Many more years in prison?

I had no idea this was even possible: the conviction of Oscar Pistorius, who had been found guilty of manslaughter by a criminal court in the killing of his girlfriend, was overturned by South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal, which instead decided the famous disabled athlete was guilt of murder.

So his five-year sentence, where he had to serve just one in prison and the rest in home confinement, will now been increased substantially and Pistorius will be sent back to prison. 

“The minimum sentence for murder in South Africa is 15 years,” according to the Associated Press, “but exceptional circumstances in the case of the former track star, including time already served, his disability and status as a first-time offender, could mean he'll get a lower sentence.”

The same judge, who according to the appellate court erred in judging his crime manslaughter and not murder, will sentence Mr. Pistorius for what now stands as his conviction for murder. 

“Sentencing is up to the North Gauteng High Court, where Pistorius was tried,” the AP reports. “South African media said Judge Thokozile Masipa, who presided over the original trial, will handle the matter. No sentencing date has been set.”

What is so surprising from an American perspective on this case is that an appeal represented further jeopardy for Pistorius. As far as I know, when someone is convicted of a crime by a trial court in the United States, the appeals court cannot increase the penalty or find that the crime was worse than the lower court found. 

So U.S. appellate courts are left with the choice of upholding the lower court’s decision, throwing out part of the conviction or throwing out the entire conviction. In each of those scenarios, the penalty remains the same or is reduced, possibly down to nothing.

What I have never found credible in the Pistorius case is the idea that he did not know, when he shot through his bathroom door, that the person in the bathroom was his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. He not only knew she was in there, but he knew for certain she was sitting on the toilet.

Imagine you hear someone in your bathroom, as Pistorius says he did, and you think it might be an intruder. Fair enough, if you have a gun, you get it. You then shout at the bathroom door, “Who’s in there?!!!”

If the person is silent, then it might be an intruder. But in this case, Ms. Steenkamp lived in the house and surely would have responded, “It’s Reva!” Why wouldn't she have answered? She was killed on the pot. 

Also, think about this: What "dangerous" intruder breaks into your home and immediately sits down on the toilet? That notion makes no sense. It's not as if the supposed burglar was hiding, crouched behind a sink or staying quiet the shower stall. Reva, the person in the bathroom, was just sitting on the toilet, and Oscar knew it.

So I believe, without the slightest bit of doubt, that Pistorius was certain who was behind the door when he unloaded his gun. His full intent was to murder Steenkamp, and he invented the ruse about “an intruder” in order to cover up his crime.

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