Oscar Pistorius’s manslaughter conviction, which saw him serve only one year in prison, was upgraded to murder Thursday by a South African appeals court.
The upgraded conviction for the shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp means that Pistorius will return to prison. He is under house arrest at his uncle’s farm, after being released in October, and could not travel to Thursday’s hearing.
“This case involves a human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions,” said Justice Eric Leach, reading the judgement. “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.”
The Pretoria High Court will hand down a new sentence, although a new date has not been set. The minimum sentence for murder in South Africa is 15 years. His lawyers will almost certainly ask for a reduced sentence based on his status as a double amputee. A psychiatric evaluation also showed he suffers from anxiety and suicidal impulses.
The appeal court’s verdict was unanimous, and based on the legal concept of dolus eventualis – the idea that Pistorius should have considered the possibility of killing someone when he fired through a closed bathroom door.
“In these circumstances, I have no doubt that in firing the fatal shots the accused must have foreseen that whoever was behind the toilet door might die, but reconciled with that event occurring, and gambled with that person’s life,” Leach said.
The court also overruled the original judge’s finding that Pistorius was justified in fearing for his life – the reason he claimed he fired into the bathroom where his girlfriend was located.
“I would hope to God that all of this could have been prevented, but seeing that it has been done, let us now all get on with our lives,” said Barry Steenkamp, Reeva’s father.