- Oscar gets 5 years for Reeva’s death
By Shain Germaner – Iol.co.za
October 21, 2014
Pretoria – Oscar Pistorius has been sentenced to five years in prison for killing his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, after his defence team’s arguments in mitigation were shattered by Judge Thokozile Masipa.
He was also sentenced to three years, suspended for five years, for firing a pistol under a table at Tasha’s restaurant in Johannesburg in January 2013.
The sentences would run concurrently.
Masipa began her sentencing at the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday morning summarising a week’s worth of mitigation and aggravating arguments.
Pistorius was found guilty of last month of culpable homicide for causing the death of Reeva Steenkamp, as well as a charge of negligently handling a firearm in a separate incident.
Judge Masipa said while throughout the trial she had two assessors to assist her, but the sentencing decision was hers alone.
She said finding an appropriate sentence is a difficulty faced by criminal courts on a daily basis as there were sometimes more than a single correct sentence.
Masipa said that in mitigation of sentence, the defence called four witnesses while the State called just two for their arguments in aggravation.
She described the testimony of Pistorius’s psychologist, Dr Löre Hartzenberg for the defence, who said she had been treating Pistorius since shortly after the shooting in February last year.
Hartzenberg said the court needed to take into account Pistorius’s life having been left in tatters, with few friends, no career and a life now full of mental anguish.
Masipa said the next witness, Joel Maringa, a social worker, had recommended Pistorius should be kept under correctional supervision (house arrest) for three years and serve 16 hours of community service per month.
Pistorius’s manager, Peet van Zyl, was the third witness, who highlighted the athlete’s worldwide charity work during his illustrious career.
Van Zyl’s evidence was that prior to the shooting, Pistorius was commonly perceived as a global sporting icon, who had given his time and money to various worthy causes.
According to Van Zyl, the opportunity to do this had been taken from Pistorius since Steenkamp’s death.
The fourth witness was another social worker, Annette Vergeer, who spent much of her time on the stand decrying the poor status of local prisons.
She told the court that the prisons could not cater for Pistorius’s special needs.
The State’s first witness was Steenkamp’s cousin, Kim Martin, who gave an in depth summary of the model’s working and personal life.
Martin told the court of how close Steenkamp was to her parents, Barry and June, and helped them financially. Masipa noted how Martin had only met Pistorius once, a month before Steenkamp’s death. Martin recalled the chaotic aftermath for her extended family when they were informed of the death.
Barry’s health suffered from the stress of the death, according to Martin.
Lastly, the State brought the acting National Director at the Department of Correctional Services, Zac Modise, who insisted that the prison system could humanely detain the athlete.
Masipa then moved onto Pistorius’s personal circumstances as a double amputee and world renowned paralympian.
She said he no longer had any assets, and had no previous convictions.
Masipa said she was not impressed by Vergeer as a witness, as her evidence was poor and used outdated information, especially concerning the prison system. She said this had a negative impact on Vergeer’s credibility, and said the State was right in describing her evidence as “sketchy” and biased for someone with 28 years of experience.
Modise impressed the Judge, however, as a witness who genuinely wanted to inform the court that while local prisons weren’t perfect, they could cater for special needs. She said she was satisfied that disabled prisoners would be correctly looked after.
She added that if Pistorius has any issues with his accommodation if sent to prison, he had every right to approach the courts.
Judge Masipa recalled how the defence had argued Pistorius would also need mental rehabilitation for his numerous anxieties, but she believed Modise had established that such care would be available, and the athlete could bring in his own doctors.
She said that pregnant women, one of the most vulnerable groups in society, have been incarcerated in the past, with the department able to care for them.
She said it would be a major concern if there was a perception of one law for the poor, and another for the rich and famous.
Masipa also believed that the defence had placed too much emphasis on his vulnerability, when he had been living his life as a confident athlete who competed with the able-bodied.
She said her judgment was designed to bring forth the real picture of who Pistorius was.
Masipa said Pistorius had helped changed the public’s perceptions of the disabled, and inspired other young people. She said this can’t be ignored but had to be put in perspective, as his manager told the court it would have been a poor career move not to get involved with charities.
Masipa did believe, however, that Pistorius was remorseful for his crimes, as evidenced by his attempts to privately apologise to the Steenkamp family.
She said the defence had argued Pistorius’s poor mental state had been exacerbated by the media reports surrounding him. Masipa said she had taken note that the sheer number and availability of these reports could indeed be a factor in mitigation.
The judge said that while the interests of society are a necessary concern in providing a sentence, the court should not be part of a societal popularity contest, and rather pursue justice to its fullest extent.
“Retribution… is not the same as vengeance,” she said.
She said, however, that while the population could consider a lenient sentence as a failure of the court, the threat of mob justice should not deter from a righteous sentence.
Masipa said she hoped that her ruling would provide closure for all concerned, “so they could move on with their lives”.
In a comparison with another case similar to that of Pistorius’s, Masipa said the athlete had not been trying to scare off an intruder, but rather trying to shoot him.
In her conclusion, Masipa said the sentence of correctional supervision as recommended by the defence witnesses was “not appropriate” for this matter because of the severe negligent behaviour of the athlete.
She said a non-custodial sentence would send the wrong message to society, but that a long sentence was not appropriate either.
In respect of the second shooting incident at a Tasha’s restaurant, she said a sentence of direct imprisonment was not appropriate as no one was hurt.
After telling the athlete to rise, Masipa sentenced Pistorius to five years in prison for cupable homicide and three years imprisonment for the second charge, but wholly suspended. The two sentences were set to run concurrently.
Pistorius managed to hold hands with some of his family members before he was led down towards the cells.
After giving out her verdict, the judge thanked the counsel on both sides for their help during the trial and the public gallery for their behaviour. Masipa said: “I want to thank the gallery. It was not an easy matter.”
After the sentence was handed down, National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Nathi Mncube said the organisation was originally disappointed with the culpable homicide conviction, but had taken solace in the fact that Pistorius would see some time behind bars.
He said a non-custodial sentence would have been inappropriate, and that the NPA will consider whether they may appeal the sentencing.
Mncube said it would be a difficult decision as the case was far from “straightforward”.
Meanwhile, he said he believed Pistorius would be taken straight to prison from the courthouse.
The trial of Oscar Pistorius for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp and several gun-related charges (The State vs Oscar Pistorius) in the High Court of South Africa in Pretoria opened on 3 March 2014. On 11–12 September 2014, Judge Thokozile Masipa delivered a verdict that Pistorius was not guilty of murder, but guilty of the culpable homicide of Steenkamp and reckless endangerment with a firearm at a restaurant. The trial was adjourned until 13 October for sentencing.
Pistorius is a leading South African runner, who won attention as an athlete with a disability competing at a high level, including at multiple Paralympic Games and the 2012 Summer Olympics. Steenkamp, a model, was his girlfriend. In the early morning of Thursday, 14 February 2013, Steenkamp was shot and killed by Pistorius at his Pretoria home. Pistorius acknowledged that he shot Steenkamp, but said that he mistook her for an intruder. Pistorius was taken into police custody and was formally charged with murder in a Pretoria court on 15 February 2013.
On 25 February 2014, Judge President Dunstan Mlambo ruled in the High Court in Pretoria that the entire trial could be broadcast live via audio and that parts of the trial could be broadcast live via television, namely the opening and closing arguments, the testimony of consenting state witnesses, the judgment, and the sentencing if applicable.
The bail hearing commenced on 19 February 2013 under Chief Magistrate of Pretoria Desmond Nair. During the hearing, both prosecution and defence said that Pistorius had fired four shots through a locked toilet door, hitting Steenkamp, who was inside, three times. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel claimed that Pistorius had put on his prosthetic legs, walked across his bedroom to the bathroom, and intentionally shot Steenkamp through the door. Nel argued that the time required for this process was sufficient to establish the alleged murder as premeditated. Pistorius said that he had thought Steenkamp was in the bed, and that the person in the toilet was an intruder.
Chief investigating officer Hilton Botha said at the bail hearing that a witness had heard gunshots coming from Pistorius’ home and then a female screaming followed by more gunshots; he initially said the witness was 600 metres (2,000 ft) away, but later said the distance was 300 metres (980 ft). Botha also said the trajectory of the gunshots indicated that they had been fired downward and directly toward the toilet, seemingly conflicting with Pistorius’ statement that he was not wearing his prosthetics at the time. He acknowledged that procedural mistakes had been made during the crime scene investigation and that police had found no evidence inconsistent with the version of events presented by Pistorius, adding later that equally nothing contradicted the police version, either.
On 22 February 2013, Botha was removed from the case following revelations that he was facing attempted murder charges stemming from a 2009 incident. Botha was replaced by Vineshkumar Moonoo, described as “the most senior detective” in the South African Police Service.
On the first day of the bail hearing, Magistrate Nair ruled that for the purposes of the bail hearing Pistorius was charged with a Schedule 6 criminal offence, which relates to serious crimes including premeditated murder and requires exceptional circumstances for release on bail.
On 22 February 2013, at the conclusion of the four-day bail hearing, Magistrate Nair said that the state had not convinced him that Pistorius posed a flight risk and fixed bail at R1 million (US$113,000). On 4 June 2013 the court case was postponed to allow time for further investigation until a hearing at Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on 19 August 2013, when Pistorius was formally indicted on charges of murder and the illegal possession of ammunition. The indictment noted that even if Pistorius was mistaken in the identity of the person he shot, the intention was to kill.
In late June 2013, Pistorius returned to training, reportedly looking much thinner and wearing a beard. His agent said that it was a very emotional experience for Pistorius and that returning had been a “bittersweet” moment for him.
Dates for a trial to be held at the Gauteng Division of the High Court were initially set from 3 to 20 March 2014, and later extended until 16 May 2014. The court was set to adjourn after proceedings on 17 April 2014, returning on 5 May 2014, to accommodate scheduling conflicts of the prosecution.
The murder trial commenced on 3 March 2014 in the High Court in Pretoria. Pistorius was also facing a charge of illegal possession of ammunition and two charges of firing a gun in a public space. The trial was assigned to Judge Thokozile Masipa, who appointed two assessors, Janette Henzen du Toit and Themba Mazibuko, to help her evaluate the case and reach a verdict. There was no jury, the jury system in South Africa being abolished during apartheid.
Section 35 of the South African Bill of Rights provides that “Every accused person has a right to a fair trial, which includes the right… to be tried in a language that the accused person understands or, if that is not practicable, to have the proceedings interpreted in that language”. At the start of the trial, Judge Masipa told the court that the proceedings would be held in English with the assistance of interpreters, and confirmed that Pistorius spoke English. Difficulties related to court interpreters have led to court delays, mistranslations and witnesses opting to testify in English rather than their first language.
The opening statement of prosecutor Gerrie Nel noted that the murder case against Pistorius was based largely on circumstantial evidence, as there were no eyewitnesses to the incident. Contrary to statements made in the bail hearing, the prosecution’s case in the trial was that Pistorius was not wearing his prosthetic legs at the time of the shooting, or when he broke the toilet door down afterwards.
Prosecution expert witness Christian Mangena, a police ballistics analyst, testified “the shooter was most likely not wearing prosthetic legs”. Prosecution expert witness Johannes Vermeulen, a police forensic analyst, testified Pistorius was not wearing his prosthetic legs when he broke the toilet door down with a cricket bat after the shooting. Pistorius pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him, including murder and three gun-related charges.
In his opening statement read out by Pistorius family lawyer Kenny Oldwage, Pistorius said he believed Steenkamp was in bed when he shot at what he thought was an intruder behind the toilet door, and that he had spoken to her in bed shortly beforehand. He admitted to killing Steenkamp, but denied the charge of murder.
The lead defence advocate in the case was Barry Roux. In South African criminal law, murder is defined as the intentional unlawful killing of another human being. The defence of Pistorius was that, in shooting at what he believed to be an intruder, he mistakenly believed he was acting in self-defence, and as self-defence excludes the unlawfulness requirement of criminal liability, an act in valid self-defence is lawful. Technically his defence amounted to a claim that he did not intend to act unlawfully. If he could raise a reasonable doubt in his favour that he was mistaken, as he claimed, he is entitled, under South African law, to an acquittal on the charge of murder. The court then considered whether this mistake was reasonable – one that a reasonable person, in his circumstances, may have made. If the court concluded that this was an unreasonable mistake, it would convict him of Culpable homicide (all other requirements assumed). Culpable homicide in South African criminal law is defined as the negligent unlawful killing of another human being – roughly the equivalent of the English and US manslaughter.
Progress of the trial
On the first and second day of the trial, a witness testified to hearing sounds of arguing that lasted about an hour. Five witnesses testified to what were described as a woman’s screams and gunshots on the night Steenkamp died.
On the morning of day three, the defence resumed the cross examination of witnesses claiming to have heard a woman’s screams and gunshots. The defence sought to establish that this was in fact Pistorius screaming for help and that the “explosive sounds” heard was the door to the toilet being battered down. In the afternoon the prosecution continued with testimony relating to an incident when a shot was fired in a restaurant the year previously.
On the fourth day, Pistorius’ neighbour, Johan Stipp, a radiologist, testified that he found Pistorius praying over Steenkamp’s body when he went over to help after being woken by what he described as the sound of gunshots and a woman screaming. Stipp testified that the first thing he remembered Pistorius saying when he saw him was “I shot her. I thought she was a burglar. I shot her.” Stipp also testified that the light was on in the bathroom and he saw a figure moving as a woman screamed.
On day five the court heard testimony from a former girlfriend of Pistorius and from a security guard at the estate where Pistorius lived, on duty the night of the events. The court adjourned until the following Monday 10 March 2014. The trial entered its sixth day on 10 March. Pistorius vomited multiple times in court as the state pathologist delivered graphic testimony about the nature of Steenkamp’s injuries.
On 24 March, the court heard testimony about messages sent on iPhones between Pistorius and Steenkamp using WhatsApp. Ninety percent of them were described as loving and normal, but there were several from Steenkamp accusing Pistorius of jealousy and possessiveness. In one of them, sent less than three weeks before her killing, Steenkamp told Pistorius “I’m scared of you sometimes, of how you snap at me”, and described his behaviour as “nasty”. The state rested their case on Tuesday 25 March, having called 20 witnesses from an original list of 107.
On 28 March, the trial was postponed until 7 April as one of the assessors fell ill. On 7 April, Pistorius began testifying in his own defence at the trial. The cross examination of Pistorius lasted for five days, and ended on 15 April. Re-examination by defence lasted less than ten minutes, in the course of which defence asked Pistorius to read from a Valentine card which Steenkamp had given the athlete. Steenkamp had written: “I think today is a good day to tell you that, I love you”. Pistorius previously testified that he opened the card on Steenkamp’s birthday in August 2013.
Following further defence testimony the trial was adjourned until 5 May.
On 5 May, Johan Stander, manager of the estate where Pistorius lived, testified that Pistorius called at 3.18 am saying “Please, please come to my house. I shot Reeva, I thought she was an intruder. Please, please come quick.” He went with his daughter and found Pistorius coming down the stairs with Steenkamp in his arms. “He was broken, he was screaming, he was crying, he was praying, I saw the truth that morning”, he said.
On 6 May, a married couple who lived next to Pistorius’ house testified that they both heard a man crying loudly in a high-pitched voice and calling three times for help. Another immediate neighbour testified that she heard a man crying, describing the sounds as a “cry of pain”. There was no hearing Wednesday 7 May, due to the South African general election. Defence lawyer Barry Roux indicated that he would be finished with witness testimony by Tuesday 13 May.
On 8 May, professor Christina Lundgren, an anaesthesiologist, testified that estimates of the time Steenkamp last ate were not reliable. The defence also called Yvette van Schalkwyk, a social worker and probation officer assigned to Pistorius, who had contacted the defence after reading newspaper reports suggesting Pistorius was acting and that his emotional responses were insincere. She said that in February 2013 she sat with him in the cells during his bail appearance, where he vomited twice, cried eighty percent of the time, and was in mourning and suffering emotionally, and that Pistorius told her that he missed Steenkamp a great deal. “He loved her. .. He couldn’t think what her parents must be going through” she said. Under cross-examination, Lundgren conceded that Pistorius had not told her he was sorry he killed Reeva. The defence ballistics expert and former police officer Tom Wolmarans began his testimony.
On 9 May, Wolmarans countered a suggestion from a prosecution ballistics expert that Steenkamp cowered with her hand over her head. “The left hand cannot have been against her head because there were no wounds and no brain tissue on the inside of her hand” he said.
On 12 May, forensic psychiatrist Dr Merryl Vorster testified that Pistorius has a generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and is a “distrusting and guarded” person hyper-vigilant about security, and also that in a fight or flight situation he is more likely to stand up to threatening situations than to flee, due to his disability. The prosecution said they would bring an application for Pistorius’ mental condition to be independently assessed under article 78 of the South African Criminal Procedure Act.
On 13 May, the court heard concluding testimony from Vorster. Judge Masipa said she would rule the following day on the prosecution application to have Pistorius’ mental condition evaluated. On 14 May, Judge Masipa granted the prosecution’s application for Pistorius to be referred for mental evaluation.
On 20 May, Judge Masipa ordered evaluation to take place as an out-patient at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital in Pretoria weekdays between 9 am and 4 pm, starting 26 May and lasting up to thirty days. The evaluation found that Pistorius was not mentally incapacitated to the extent where he could not tell right from wrong, though it did say that he currently suffers from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, and would need continuing psychiatric care or he could become suicidal.
On 30 June, surgeon Gerald Versfeld, who amputated Pistorius’ lower legs when he was 11 months old, testified about the effects of Pistorius walking or standing on his stumps. Acoustic engineer Ivan Lin testified that tests suggested that if Steenkamp was screaming in Pistorius’ toilet, it was “very unlikely” that the screams would be audible or intelligible from 177 metres (581 ft) away, and that “although we can typically distinguish male and female screams, you cannot do so reliably, without exception”. Masipa also issued an order that police officers depose affidavits about a missing electrical extension cord.
On 1 July, Lin conceded it was possible that state witnesses heard screams from the Pistorius house from up to 177 metres (581 ft) away. Peet van Zyl, Pistorius’s agent, testified that Pistorius was in a “loving and caring relationship” with Reeva Steenkamp. Van Zyl described the sprinter as “hypervigilant”, and said he rarely lost his temper.
On 2 July, defence lawyer Roux read excerpts from a psychologist’s report, which stated “Mr Pistorius has been severely traumatised by the events that took place on 14 February 2013, He currently suffers from a post-traumatic stress disorder, and a major depressive disorder … The degree of anxiety and depression that is present is significant. He is also mourning the loss of Ms Steenkamp. Mr Pistorius is being treated and should continue to receive clinical care by a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist for his current condition. Should he not receive proper clinical care, his condition is likely to worsen and increase the risk for suicide.” The report did not confirm a diagnosis of “Generalised Anxiety Disorder” by a witness called by the defence, “”No evidence could be found to indicate that Mr Pistorius suffered from anxiety to the extent that it impaired his functioning prior to the incident in February 2013.”.
The report found some jealousy but no evidence of abuse by Pistorius: “There is evidence to indicate that Mr Pistorius was genuine with his feelings towards Miss Steenkamp and that they had a normal loving relationship. He did become insecure and jealous at times but this was normal for the specific situation. He would express his displeasure and irritation but would try and sort it out later by talking with Miss Steenkamp. Although the relationship was still young, there were no signs of abusive coercion like those often found in these kinds of relationships.” Wayne Derman, professor of sport and exercise medicine at the University of Cape Town, testified that Pistorius was “hyper-vigilant” and restless.
On 3 July, under cross-examination, Derman testified “You’ve got a paradox of an individual who is supremely able, and you’ve got an individual who is significantly disabled”. Derman, who had treated Pistorius over six years while working with South African Olympic and Paralympic teams, said Pistorius’ anxieties included concern about flying. “He has a specific fear of being trapped somewhere without being able to move very rapidly.” and that on the night he killed Steenkamp,”fleeing was not an option” as Pistorius was not wearing his artificial legs. Prosecutor Nel suggested Derman could not give evidence against his patient. “The truth would come before my patient,” Derman responded.
On 8 July, the defence closed its case. Defence lawyer Barry Roux protested “We were unable to call a number of witnesses because they refused, and didn’t want their voices heard all over the world.”
Closing arguments were heard on 7 and 8 August, with prosecutor Nel stating that Pistorius concocted a “snowball of lies”, demanding that Pistorius face consequences for his actions and in response defence lawyer Barry Roux stated that the timeline proves that Pistorius’ story is true, compared Pistorius’ reaction to danger as being like that of an an abused woman, and that Pistorius should only ever have faced culpable homicide charges, not murder.
Judge Masipa adjourned the trial until 11 September for the delivery of the verdict.
The court’s verdict, which was arrived at unanimously by the judge and her two assessors, was delivered by Judge Masipa over two days, with the formal verdict delivered on 12 September 2014.
On 11 September Judge Masipa dismissed much of the state’s circumstantial evidence, while also describing Pistorius as a “very poor witness”. Judge Masipa said the state had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Pistorius was guilty of premeditated murder and also ruled out dolus eventualis, i.e. common murder, accepting that “he did not subjectively foresee this as a possibility, that he would kill the person behind the door, let alone the deceased as he thought she was in the bedroom”. However, Judge Masipa said culpable homicide was a competent verdict, i.e. a lesser offence that is a possible alternative verdict. She said a reasonable person in the same circumstances would have “foreseen the possibility that if he fired four shots whoever was behind the toilet [door] might be struck and die as a result”. She said Pistorius “failed to take any steps to avoid the death”, “acted too hastily and used excessive force” and his actions were clearly negligent.
On 12 September Judge Masipa found Pistorius not guilty of murder but guilty of the culpable homicide of Steenkamp and guilty of reckless endangerment with a firearm at a restaurant in a separate incident. He was found not guilty of the charges relating to discharging a firearm through the sunroof of a car and illegal possession of ammunition.
Pistorius was convicted of the following specific criminal offences:
- 1.Culpable homicide, defined as “the unlawful negligent killing of a human being”
- 2.Contravention of section 120(3)(b) of the Firearms Control Act, 2000 (reckless endangerment), namely to “discharge or otherwise handle a firearm, an antique firearm or an airgun in a manner likely to injure or endanger the safety or property of any person or with reckless disregard for the safety or property of any person”
Judge Masipa adjourned the trial until 13 October for sentencing and granted Pistorius a bail extension.
According to media monitoring company ROi Africa, the majority of social media comments during the delivery of the verdict were critical of Judge Masipa after it became evident that Pistorius would not be found guilty of murder. Judge Masipa, who was given police protection from the beginning of the trial, was subjected to threats and personal attacks by people who disagreed with the verdict.
The sentencing hearing began on 13 October 2014. Witnesses for the defence recommended a 3 year community sentence with 16 hours of community service per month. State witness Zach Modise, acting national commissioner of Correctional Services, testified that being disabled Pistorius would be held in Pretoria Central Prison’s hospital wing if he receives a prison sentence.
In a statement released on 15 October, Steenkamp’s parents said they would not testify in the sentencing hearing and that they had decided not to proceed with a separate civil lawsuit. Steenkamp’s cousin Kim Martin testified for the state about the impact on the family and asked the court to impose a prison sentence. Closing arguments were heard on 17 October, when the defence argued against a prison sentence and the state requested a minimum prison sentence of 10 years.
On 21 October 2014, Pistorius received a prison sentence of a maximum of five years for culpable homicide and a concurrent three year suspended prison sentence for the separate reckless endangerment conviction.
Notable media coverage
Time published a cover story titled “Pistorius and South Africa’s culture of violence” in the 11 March 2013 issue of the magazine. The magazine cover contains text superimposed on an image of a barechested Pistorius with his running blades on, portraying his progression from man to superman to gunman. Journalism professor at City University London Roy Greenslade described the cover image as “one of those striking cover images that bears all the hallmarks of being one that will live on for years to come”. The Sowetan listed the cover appearance date as one of the “key dates in his journey from internationally renowned athlete to a man on trial for murder”.
Vanity Fair published a feature story about the incident titled “The Shooting Star and The Model” in the Crime section of their June 2013 issue.
Pieces of the Puzzle: Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp Part One: The Killing by Laurianne Claase was published in 2013, initially as an e-book and subsequently in print. Claase plans to publish a book sequel after the trial has ended.
On 4 March 2014, The Guardian published an article by South African crime novelist Margie Orford, “Oscar Pistorius trial: the imaginary black stranger at heart of the defence”, describing how the case “taps into a painful narrative in which race, sex, power and violence converge”.
In his Business Day column published on 13 March 2014, Caxton Professor of Journalism at Wits University Anton Harber states that the trial represents a turning point for local newspapers unable to compete with “the speed and conversational nature of electronic media”. He also notes that the fact that the presiding judge has “her finger on the off button for live broadcast” is restraining the behaviour of the media.
Several cartoons about the case by award-winning South African cartoonist Zapiro have been published. A cartoon titled “St. Valentine’s Day Shocker” published in the Mail & Guardian on 14 February 2013 depicts two scenarios, one portraying the culpable homicide version of events based on mistaken identity and the other portraying Pistorius as an Oscar winning actor. A cartoon titled “Reeva Steenkamp as Lady Justice in Oscar Pistorius Trial” published in the The Times on 4 March 2014 depicts Steenkamp as Lady Justice running after Pistorius. A cartoon titled “Legal Reasoning Behind Oscar Pistorius Verdict” published in the The Times on 16 September 2014 depicts the ensuing public debate about the legal technicalities of the verdict.
A controversial Paddy Power advertisement captioned “money back if he walks” was published in British tabloid The Sun on 2 March 2014 as a publicity stunt. The UK Advertising Standards Authority found that Paddy Power breached the CAP Code and brought the advertising industry into disrepute after receiving a record number of 5,525 complaints that the advertisement made light of a murder trial, the death of a woman, domestic violence and disability.
On 12 September 2014 The New York Times compared the South African public’s interest in the trial to that of Americans in the O. J. Simpson murder trial, reflecting “South Africa’s complicated obsession with race, crime and celebrity”.
Radio, television, and film
On 11 March 2013, BBC Three aired an hour long documentary about the incident titled Oscar Pistorius: What Really Happened? Discovery Networks International acquired the broadcasting rights to the programme, which will be titled Blade Runner: The Untold Story in the United States.
On 3 June 2013, Channel 5 aired two consecutive hour-long documentaries titled Why Did Oscar Pistorius Kill Our Daughter? and Pistorius Trial: The Key Questions.
In February 2014 eNCA aired a half-hour documentary special about Steenkamp’s life titled Reeva: The Model You Thought You Knew.
An hour long documentary titled Oscar Pistorius: Burden of Truth was aired during M-Net’s Carte Blanche programme on 16 February 2014 and subsequently on the Crime & Investigation Network.
On 29 January 2014, it was announced that South African satellite pay-channel DStv would launch a dedicated 24-hour channel providing in-depth coverage of the Oscar Pistorius trial on 2 March 2014. It was DStv’s first pop-up channel covering a major news story.
ESPN, a TV channel focussing on sports-related programming, is covering the trial on their ESPN3 network.
On 16 June 2014, 48 Hours aired an hour-long documentary titled Oscar Pistorius: Shots in the Dark.
On 6 July 2014, Australia’s Seven Network dedicated an hour-long episode of Sunday Night to a story titled Running Scared which was their own investigation into the likelihood of Pistorius’ guilt. The story included Pistorius’ own re-enactments as well as audio recordings and animations of the scene, and gave much heavier weight to claims of his innocence. The following day, many in South Africa, including Pistorius’ family and legal team, slammed the broadcast, saying the re-enactment footage had been illegally obtained. They claimed the footage was created solely for trial preparation and that the US company engaged to create it had breached contract by selling it to Seven Network. Seven Network refused to apologise, stating that they stood by their decision to air the story and denying any involvement in illegal procurement of the footage. They reminded the public that Steenkamp’s family participated in the creation of the story, citing their interviews that went to air.
On 15 September 2014, BBC Three broadcast Oscar Pistorius: The Truth, a documentary produced by NBC News subsidiary Peacock Productions, including extensive interviews with Barry and June Steenkamp.
On 22 February 2013, technology news site, Memeburn analyzed Pistorius’s bail hearing as it transpired on social media.
The Pistorius trial saw many South African journalists gain social media prominence as they reported from the courtroom. Writing for Memeburn, Lauren Granger explored the rise of Barry Bateman as the go to source for all things Pistorius and the Twitter explosion.
On 14 February 2014, South African comedian Trevor Noah posted on Twitter: “And the Oscar goes to – Jail”. Noah received criticism from his followers and other South Africans. People who responded to this post include Top Billing presenter Janez Vermeiren, who responded: “@Trevornoah c’mon you are more than talented and have enough followers, you don’t need to seek attention like this!”
On 23 February 2014, Pistorius’s PR team launched a Twitter account called Factual Updates which operates under the Twitter handle @OscarHardTruth in order to provide new information regarding the case as the trial unfolds. On 17 March 2014, Pistorius’s media manager Anneliese Burgess released a statement saying the account would only be used to alert followers of media statements and articles and would be used as a stand-alone communication trial once the trial had concluded.
Writing in her Daily Maverick column published on 4 March 2014, Sisonke Msimang finds vibrancy and emerging self-confidence reflected in the local social media coverage of the trial. While the trial inevitably represents a fall from grace prompting international media accounts of a country ‘at war with itself’, South Africans are learning that such accounts are better told by themselves.
On 14 April 2014, former Sunday Times columnist, Jani Allan published an open letter to Pistorius on her blog. The piece was republished by the Daily Maverick the following day. Allan described Pistorius as a “faux hero” and compared him to Eugene Terre’Blanche. She also suggested that he had taken acting lessons in preparation for his court appearance. A spokesperson for the Pistorius family has denied this; “We deny in the strongest terms the contents of her letter in as far it relates to our client and further deny that our client has undergone any acting lessons or any form of emotional coaching.”
In full: Pistorius’ affidavit to court
February 21, 2013
Pretoria (CNN) — Oscar Pistorius’ attorney read out the track star’s affidavit to the judge in the Pretoria courtroom during the bail hearing Tuesday. The athlete was too distraught to read out the statement himself.
The affidavit reads as follows:
I, the undersigned, Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius, do hereby make oath and state:
I am an adult male and a South African citizen with identity number [identity number redacted].
I am the Applicant in this application in which I seek relief from this Honourable Court to be released on bail. I respectfully submit, as I will demonstrate herein, that the interests of justice permit my release on bail. In any event, the dictates of fairness and justice in view of the peculiar facts herein warrant that I should not be deprived of my liberty and that I should be released on bail.
I make this affidavit of my own free will and have not in any way been unduly influenced to depose thereto.
The facts herein contained, save where expressly indicated to the contrary, are within my personal knowledge and belief, and are both true and correct.
The purpose of this affidavit is to provide the above Honourable Court with my personal circumstances and to address the allegations levelled against me (in so far as they are known to me), as well as to address the factors to be considered by the above Honourable Court as contained in Sections 60(4) to 60(9) of the Act.
I have been advised and I understand that I bear the burden to show that the interests of justice permit my release and that I am obliged to initiate this application. I fail to understand how I could be charged with murder, let alone premeditated murder, as I had no intention to kill my girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp (“Reeva”). However, I will put factors before the Honourable Court to show that it is in the interests of justice to permit my release on bail.
I state that the State will not be able to present any objective facts that I committed a planned or premeditated murder. For this reason I will hereunder deal with the events which occurred that evening. The objective facts will not refute my version as it is the truth.
I am a professional athlete and reside at [address redacted].
I was born on 22 November 1986, at Johannesburg. I have resided in the Republic of South Africa (“the RSA”) all my life, and although I frequently travel abroad to participate in international sporting events, I regard South Africa as my permanent place of abode. I have no intention to relocate to any other country as I love my country.
I own immovable assets in South Africa, which consist of the following:
The immovable property in which I currently reside, at [address redacted] (“the residential premises”). This property is valued at approximately R5 million and is encumbered by a mortgage bond in the amount of approximately R2 million.
Two further immovable properties located within Weeping Willow Estates, Pretoria East, which properties have a combined value of approximately R1,6 million. Both properties are bonded to an aggregate value of approximately R1 million.
A vacant stand in Langebaan, Western Cape, which has a value of approximately R1,7 million. This property is not bonded.
I own movable assets comprised of household furniture and effects, motor vehicles and jewellery, which are valued in excess of R500 000,00.
My friends and family reside in the RSA, although I also have friends abroad.
My professional occupation currently provides me with an income of approximately R5,6 million per annum.
I have cash investments in excess of R1 million at various banks within the RSA.
I have never been convicted of any criminal offences either in the RSA or elsewhere. There are no outstanding cases, other than the present, being investigated against me by the South African Police Services (“SAPS”).
My legal representatives have explained the provisions of Section 60(11) of the Act to me. I respectfully make the following submissions in this regard:
I have been informed that I am accused of having committed the offence of murder. I deny the aforesaid allegation in the strongest terms.
I am advised that I do not have to deal with the merits of the case for purposes of the bail application. However, I believe that it is appropriate to deal with the merits in this application, particularly in view of the State’s contention that I planned to murder Reeva. Nothing can be further from the truth and I have no doubt that it is not possible for the State to present objective facts to substantiate such an allegation, as there is no substance in the allegation. I do not know on what different facts the allegation of a premeditated murder could be premised and I respectfully request the State to furnish me with such alleged facts in order to allow me to refute such allegations.
On the 13th of February 2013 Reeva would have gone out with her friends and I with my friends. Reeva then called me and asked that we rather spend the evening at home. I agreed and we were content to have a quiet dinner together at home. By about 22h00 on 13 February 2013 we were in our bedroom. She was doing her yoga exercises and I was in bed watching television. My prosthetic legs were off. We were deeply in love and I could not be happier. I know she felt the same way. She had given me a present for Valentine’s Day but asked me only to open it the next day.
After Reeva finished her yoga exercises she got into bed and we both fell asleep.
I am acutely aware of violent crime being committed by intruders entering homes with a view to commit crime, including violent crime. I have received death threats before. I have also been a victim of violence and of burglaries before. For that reason I kept my firearm, a 9 mm Parabellum, underneath my bed when I went to bed at night.
During the early morning hours of 14 February 2013, I woke up, went onto the balcony to bring the fan in and closed the sliding doors, the blinds and the curtains. I heard a noise in the bathroom and realised that someone was in the bathroom.
I felt a sense of terror rushing over me. There are no burglar bars across the bathroom window and I knew that contractors who worked at my house had left the ladders outside. Although I did not have my prosthetic legs on I have mobility on my stumps.
I believed that someone had entered my house. I was too scared to switch a light on.
I grabbed my 9mm pistol from underneath my bed. On my way to the bathroom I screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in bed.
I noticed that the bathroom window was open. I realised that the intruder/s was/were in the toilet because the toilet door was closed and I did not see anyone in the bathroom. I heard movement inside the toilet. The toilet is inside the bathroom and has a separate door.
It filled me with horror and fear of an intruder or intruders being inside the toilet. I thought he or they must have entered through the unprotected window. As I did not have my prosthetic legs on and felt extremely vulnerable, I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself. I believed that when the intruder/s came out of the toilet we would be in grave danger. I felt trapped as my bedroom door was locked and I have limited mobility on my stumps.
I fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to Reeva to phone the police. She did not respond and I moved backwards out of the bathroom, keeping my eyes on the bathroom entrance. Everything was pitch dark in the bedroom and I was still too scared to switch on a light. Reeva was not responding.
When I reached the bed, I realised that Reeva was not in bed. That is when it dawned on me that it could have been Reeva who was in the toilet. I returned to the bathroom calling her name. I tried to open the toilet door but it was locked. I rushed back into the bedroom and opened the sliding door exiting onto the balcony and screamed for help.
I put on my prosthetic legs, ran back to the bathroom and tried to kick the toilet door open. I think I must then have turned on the lights. I went back into the bedroom and grabbed my cricket bat to bash open the toilet door. A panel or panels broke off and I found the key on the floor and unlocked and opened the door. Reeva was slumped over but alive.
I battled to get her out of the toilet and pulled her into the bathroom. I phoned Johan Stander (“Stander”) who was involved in the administration of the estate and asked him to phone the ambulance. I phoned Netcare and asked for help. I went downstairs to open the front door.
I returned to the bathroom and picked Reeva up as I had been told not to wait for the paramedics, but to take her to hospital. I carried her downstairs in order to take her to the hospital. On my way down Stander arrived. A doctor who lives in the complex also arrived. Downstairs, I tried to render the assistance to Reeva that I could, but she died in my arms.
I am absolutely mortified by the events and the devastating loss of my beloved Reeva. With the benefit of hindsight I believe that Reeva went to the toilet when I went out on the balcony to bring the fan in. I cannot bear to think of the suffering I have caused her and her family, knowing how much she was loved. I also know that the events of that tragic night were as I have described them and that in due course I have no doubt the police and expert investigators will bear this out.
I will stand my trial should it proceed against me. I am a well-known international athlete and there is no possibility that I will even think of not standing my trial should there be one. I trust the South African legal system and that the facts will show that I did not murder Reeva.
In order to persuade the above Honourable Court that I should be released on bail, I provide the following additional facts and information in terms of Section 60 of the Act.
I do not know the identity of any witness upon whom the State will rely in order to attempt to prove a case against me. In any event, I have no intention to interfere with any witnesses as I have no cause to do so and I undertake not to do so.
I maintain good relationships with people and I bear no grudges against anyone.
As previously stated, I have no previous convictions and I have not been released on bail pending any charges.
I am not disposed to violence.
I respectfully submit that the facts set out above support my contention that I do not constitute a flight risk.
I have two South African passports, the one is full. I need my passport to compete overseas but I am willing to surrender the passports to the investigating officer should it be a condition of bail. I am not in possession of any other travel documents and undertake not to apply for such documentation pending the finalisation of these proceedings.
After the shooting I did not attempt to flee. Rather, I accepted Stander would contact the police, and I remained at the scene.
I will be able to raise an appropriate amount to post as bail.
I have no knowledge of any evidentiary material which may exist with regard to the allegations levelled against me. In any event, I believe that whatever such evidence may be, it is in the possession of the police; it is safely secured and I do not have access thereto. I undertake not to interfere with any further investigations.
I am not sure which witnesses the State will rely upon in order to attempt to prove its case against me. Nonetheless, I undertake not to communicate with any witness, whoever he or she may be, and any other persons whose names may appear on a list of “State witnesses”, to be provided by the State.
My continued incarceration can only prejudice me and creates no benefit to the State.
I respectfully submit that should I be released on bail, my release shall not disturb the public order or undermine the proper functioning of the criminal justice system.
I will comply with such conditions as the above Honourable Court may wish to impose.
I accordingly submit that the interests of justice, considerations of prejudice and the balancing of respective interests favour my release on bail.
Why wasn’t Oscar Pistorius convicted of murder?
After a six-month trial, Oscar Pistorius is cleared of murder but convicted of culpable homicide
September 12, 2014
Oscar Pistorius was today convicted of culpable homicide by Judge Thokozile Masipa after being cleared of murdering Reeva Steenkamp.
The prosecution accused Pistorius of premeditated murder, claiming he had deliberately shot his girlfriend Steenkamp after an argument on Valentine’s Day last year.
However, Judge Masipa told the court that the state had failed to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that Pistorius is guilty of premeditated murder. “There are just not enough facts to support such a finding,” she said.
Masipa said the evidence the state offered on the charge was “purely circumstantial”.
Based on the objective facts, such as phone records, she accepted the defence’s timeline of events that the shots were fired at around 3.12am. This meant that some of the state witnesses who claimed they heard a woman screaming after the time Steenkamp was shot must have been “genuinely mistaken”, she said.
The judge also said that the WhatsApp messages between Pistorius and Steenkamp did not “prove anything” and the evidence suggesting Steenkamp had eaten two hours before she died was “inconclusive”.
Masipa then turned to the lesser charge of murder. She said there was “no doubt” that when Pistorius fired shots at the door he “acted unlawfully”.
However, she said that the evidence does not support the state’s case that this was “murder dolus eventualis”, a legal term for when the perpetrator foresees the possibility of his action causing death and persists regardless.
Masipa accepted that Pistorius believed Steenkamp was in the bedroom, noting that this part of his account had remained consistent since the moments after the shooting. It is “highly improbable the accused would have made this up so quickly”, she said.
She described Pistorius as a “very poor” and “evasive” witness, but said it did not mean he was necessarily guilty. “Clearly he did not subjectively foresee this as a possibility that he would kill the person behind the door – let alone the deceased – as he thought she was in the bedroom,” she said.
Yesterday, some legal experts suggested that the state might be able to appeal the murder ruling. Masipa explained why Pistorius did not foresee that he would kill Steenkamp, but did not “explain convincingly” why she believed he did not foresee that he would have killed the perceived intruder, says Pierre De Vos, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Cape Town.
Writing in South Africa’s Daily Maverick, De Vos says: “Given all the evidence presented in court about Pistorius’s knowledge of guns and what the bullets he used would do to a person, it is unlikely in the extreme that Pistorius did not foresee that the person behind the door (who he might have thought was an intruder) would be killed.”
Today, Masipa offered a legal explanation as to why she could only convict Pistorius on culpable homicide rather than murder. A “reasonable” person with Pistorius’s disabilities would have foreseen that shooting into the door may have killed the person inside, she said. However, South African law warns against automatically assuming that because a perpetrator “should have” foreseen the consequences of his actions that he actually did.
She pointed to JM Burchell’s General Principles of Criminal Law, which states that “the courts have warned against any tendency to draw the inference of objective foresight too easily”. Following previous cases, the courts have been told to “guard against proceeding too readily from ‘ought to have foreseen’ to ‘must have foreseen'”.
The onus was on the state to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Pistorius foresaw the fatal consequences of his actions when he shot at the door. Masipa said the prosecution failed to do so.
Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius (born 22 November 1986) is a South African sprint runner. Although both of Pistorius’ legs were amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old, he competes in events for single below-knee amputees and for able-bodied athletes.
After becoming a Paralympics champion, Pistorius attempted to enter able-bodied international competition, over persistent objections of the IAAF and charges that his artificial limbs gave an unfair advantage. Pistorius eventually prevailed in this legal dispute. At the 2011 World Championships in Athletics, Pistorius became the first amputee to win an able-bodied world track medal. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, Pistorius became the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics when he entered the men’s 400 metres and 4 × 400 metres relay races. At the 2012 Summer Paralympics, Pistorius won gold medals in the men’s 400-metre race and in the 4 × 100 metres relay, setting world records in both events. He also took silver in the 200-metre race, having set a world record in the semifinal.
In February 2013, Pistorius fatally shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp in his Pretoria home. He claimed he’d mistaken Steenkamp for an intruder, but he was arrested and charged with murder. At his trial in 2014 he was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of culpable homicide. In October 2014, Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide (and a concurrent three year suspended prison sentence for a separate reckless endangerment conviction).
Oscar Pistorius was born to Henke and Sheila Pistorius on 22 November 1986 in Sandton, Johannesburg, in what was then Transvaal Province (now Gauteng Province) of South Africa. He grew up in a Christian home, and has an elder brother, Carl, and a younger sister, Aimée. Pistorius credits his mother, who died at the age of 43 when Pistorius was 15 years old, as a major influence in his life. He is a white South African with Italian ancestry from his mother’s grandfather, an Italian emigrant to Kenya. He is English-speaking.
Pistorius was born with fibular hemimelia (congenital absence of the fibula) in both legs. When he was 11 months old, his legs were amputated halfway between his knees and ankles. He attended Constantia Kloof Primary School and Pretoria Boys High School, where he played rugby union in the school’s third XV team. He played water polo and tennis at provincial level between the ages of 11 and 13. In addition, Pistorius took part in club Olympic wrestling, and trained at Jannie Brooks’s garage gym in Pretoria, South Africa.
After a serious rugby knee injury in June 2003, he was introduced to running in January 2004 while undergoing rehabilitation at the University of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre with coach Ampie Louw, and “never looked back”. His first racing blades were fitted by South African prosthetist Francois van der Watt. Because he was unable to find suitable running blades in Pretoria, van der Watt ordered some to be made by a local engineer. However, as these quickly broke, van der Watt referred Pistorius to American prosthetist and Paralympic sprinter Brian Frasure to be fitted for blades by Icelandic company Össur.
Pistorius began studying for a Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com.) in business management with sports science at the University of Pretoria in 2006. In a June 2008 interview for his University’s website, he joked: “I won’t graduate soon. With all the training I have had to cut down on my subjects. Hopefully I’ll finish by the time I’m 30!” Asked by a journalist for his “sporting motto”, he said: “You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.”
Pistorius competes in T44 (single below-knee amputees) events though he is actually classified in T43 (double below knee amputee). Sometimes referred to as the “Blade Runner” and “the fastest man on no legs”, Pistorius took part in the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens and came third overall in the T44 (one leg amputated below the knee) 100-metre event. Despite falling in the preliminary round for the 200 metres, he qualified for the final. He went on to win the final in a world record time of 21.97 seconds, besting a pair of American runners both possessing a single amputation, Marlon Shirley and Brian Frasure.
In 2005, Pistorius finished sixth in the able-bodied South African Championships over 400 metres with a world-record time of 47.34 seconds, and at the Paralympic World Cup in the same year, he won gold in the 100 metres and 200 metres, beating his previous 200-metre world record.
At the 2006 Paralympic Athletics World Championships, Pistorius won gold in the 100-, 200- and 400-metre events, breaking the world record over 200 metres. On 17 March 2007, he set a disability sports world record for the 400 metres (46.56 seconds) at the South African Senior Athletics Championships in Durban; and at the Nedbank Championships for the Physically Disabled held in Johannesburg in April 2007, he became the world record holder of the 100- and 200-metre events with times of 10.91 and 21.58 seconds respectively.
Pistorius was invited by the IAAF to take part in what would have been his first international able-bodied event, the 400-metre race at the IAAF Grand Prix in Helsinki, Finland, in July 2005. He was unable to attend, however, because of school commitments.
On 13 July 2007, Pistorius ran in the 400-metre race at Rome’s Golden Gala and finished second in run B with a time of 46.90 seconds, behind Stefano Braciola who ran 46.72 seconds. This was a warm-up for his appearance at the 400 metres at the Norwich Union British Grand Prix at the Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield on 15 July 2007. As American Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner stumbled at the start of the race and stopped running, Pistorius took seventh place in a field of eight in wet conditions with a time of 47.65 seconds. However, he was later disqualified for running outside his lane. The race was won by American Angelo Taylor with a time of 45.25 seconds. Pistorius had ambitions of competing in other able-bodied events. In particular, he had set his sights on competing at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, but was ultimately not selected by the South African Olympic Committee.
Dispute over prosthetics
Pistorius has been the subject of criticism because of claims that his artificial limbs give him an advantage over runners with natural ankles and feet. He runs with J-shaped carbon-fibre prosthetics called the “Flex-Foot Cheetah” developed by biomedical engineer Van Phillips and manufactured by Össur.
On 26 March 2007, the IAAF amended its competition rules to include a ban on the use of “any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides a user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device”. It claimed that the amendment was not specifically aimed at Pistorius. To decide whether he was running with an unfair advantage, the IAAF monitored his track performances using high-definition cameras to film his race against Italian club runners in Rome on 13 July, and his 400 metres in Sheffield on 15 July 2007, at which he placed last.
In November 2007, Pistorius was invited to take part in a series of scientific tests at the Cologne Sports University under the guidance of Professor of Biomechanics Dr. Peter Brüggemann in conjunction with Mr. Elio Locatelli, who was responsible with the IAAF of all technical issues. After two days of tests, Brüggemann reported on his findings on behalf of the IAAF. The report claimed that Pistorius’s limbs used 25% less energy than runners with complete natural legs to run at the same speed, and that they led to less vertical motion combined with 30% less mechanical work for lifting the body.
In December, Brüggemann told Die Welt newspaper that Pistorius “has considerable advantages over athletes without prosthetic limbs who were tested by us. It was more than just a few percentage points. I did not expect it to be so clear.”
Based on these findings, on 14 January 2008, the IAAF ruled Pistorius’s prostheses ineligible for use in competitions conducted under the IAAF rules, including the 2008 Summer Olympics. Pistorius called the decision “premature and highly subjective” and pledged to continue fighting for his dream. His manager Peet van Zyl said his appeal would be based on advice from United States experts who had said that the report “did not take enough variables into consideration”.
Pistorius subsequently appealed against the adverse decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland, and appeared before the tribunal at the end of April 2008. After a two-day hearing, on 16 May 2008, the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld Pistorius’s appeal and the IAAF council decision was revoked with immediate effect.
The CAS panel unanimously determined that Dr. Brüggemann tested Pistorius’s biomechanics only at full-speed when he was running in a straight line (unlike a real 400-metre race); that the report did not consider the disadvantages that Pistorius suffers at the start and acceleration phases of the race; and that overall there was no evidence that he had any net advantage over able-bodied athletes.
In response to the announcement, Pistorius said: “My focus throughout this appeal has been to ensure that disabled athletes be given the chance to compete and compete fairly with able-bodied athletes. I look forward to continuing my quest to qualify for the Olympics.”
Attempts to qualify for 2008 Summer Olympics
To have a chance of representing South Africa at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing in the individual 400-metre race, Pistorius had to attain the Olympic “A” standard time of 45.55 seconds; the “B” qualifying time of 45.95 seconds if no other athlete from his country achieved the faster time did not apply. Each national athletics federation is permitted to enter three athletes in an event if the “A” standard is met, and only one athlete if the “B” standard is met. However, he was eligible for selection as a member of the relay squad without qualifying. His best chance was to try for a time of close to 46 seconds to make the 4 × 400-metre relay team. However, he said: “If I make the team I don’t want to be the reserve for the relay, I want to be in the top four. I want to bring something to the race and make the relay stronger.” To give him a chance of making the South African Olympic team, selectors delayed naming the team until 17 July.
On 2 July 2008, Pistorius competed in the 400 metres in the B race of the Notturna International in Milan but was “disappointed” when he failed to achieve the minimum Olympic qualification time, completing the race in fourth place in 47.78 seconds.
His performance on 11 July 2008 at the Rome Golden Gala was an improvement of more than a second, though his sixth-place time of 46.62 seconds in the B race was still short of the Olympic qualification time. Nonetheless, he was pleased with his performance, commenting that he felt he could improve on it.
On 15 July 2008, IAAF general secretary Pierre Weiss commented that the world athletics body preferred that the South African Olympic Committee not select Pistorius for its 4 × 400 metres relay team “for reasons of safety”, saying that Pistorius could cause “serious damage” and risk the physical safety of himself and other athletes if he ran in the main pack of the relay.
Pistorius branded this as the IAAF’s “last desperate attempt” to get him not to qualify, and threatened legal action if the Federation did not confirm that it had no objections to his participation in the relay. The IAAF responded by issuing a statement saying that Pistorius was welcome to seek qualification for the Olympics and future competitions under IAAF rules: “The IAAF fully respects the recent CAS decision regarding the eligibility of Oscar Pistorius to compete in IAAF competitions, and certainly has no wish to influence the South African Olympic Committee, who has full authority to select a men’s 4x400m relay team for the Beijing Olympics.”
Coming third with a personal best time of 46.25 seconds at the Spitzen Leichtathletik meeting in Lucerne on 16 July 2008, Pistorius failed to qualify for the 400 metres at the 2008 Summer Olympics by 0.70 seconds. Athletics South Africa later announced that he would also not be selected for the 4 × 400 metres relay team as four other runners had better times. Had Pistorius been selected, he would have been one of the first competitors with a leg amputation to participate in the Olympic Games. Pistorius’s compatriot Natalie du Toit, a swimmer whose left leg was amputated above the knee after a traffic accident, duly became the first athlete with an amputation to qualify for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Asked about the possibility of the IAAF offering him a wild card to take part in the Olympics, Pistorius responded: “I do not believe that I would accept. If I have to take part in the Beijing Games I should do it because I qualified.” He expressed a preference for focusing on qualification for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, stating that it was a more realistic target as “[s]printers usually reach their peak between 26 and 29. I will be 25 in London and I’ll also have two, three years’ preparation.”
2008 Summer Paralympics
Pistorius participated in the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing in the 100, 200 and 400 metres (T44). On 9 September, in the heats of the 100 metres, he set a Paralympic record with his time of 11.16 seconds. Later, following a slow start, he rallied to snatch gold from the United States’ Jerome Singleton in the 100 metres in a time of 11.17 seconds, 0.03 seconds ahead of the silver medallist.
Four days later, on 13 September, the defending Paralympic champion in the 200-metre sprint won his second gold in the event in a time of 21.67 seconds, setting another Paralympic record. He completed a hat-trick by winning gold in the 400 metres in a world-record time of 47.49 seconds on 16 September, calling it “a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life”.
2011 and qualification for 2012 Summer Olympics
In January 2011, a slimmer, trimmer Pistorius won three IPC Athletics World titles in New Zealand but was beaten for the first time in seven years in the 100 metres by American Jerome Singleton. He subsequently won the T44 400 metres in 47.28 seconds and the 100 metres in 11.04 seconds at the BT Paralympic World Cup in May to reassert himself as the world’s leading Paralympic sprinter.
Pistorius competed across a number of able-bodied races in the summer of 2011 and posted three times under 46 seconds, but it was at the 19th Internazionale di Atletica Sports Solidarity Meeting in Lignano, Italy, on 19 July that he set a personal best of 45.07 seconds in the 400 metres, attaining the World Championships and Olympic Games “A” standard qualification mark. Pistorius won the 400&-metres event with a posted time that ranked him as 15th fastest in the world.
On 8 August 2011 it was announced that he had been included in the South African team for the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, and had been selected for the 400-metre and the 4 × 400 metre relay squad. In the heats of the 400 metres, Pistorius ran in 45.39 seconds and qualified for the semifinal. However, in the semifinal, he ran 46.19 seconds and was eliminated.
In the heats of the 4 × 400 metres relay, Pistorius ran the opening leg as South Africa advanced to the finals with a national record time of 2 minutes 59.21 seconds. However, he was not selected to run in the finals based on having the slowest split time of 46.20. This caused a controversy, as the first leg is normally Pistorius’s slowest since it requires a start from blocks, and he was restricted to the first leg by Athletics South Africa “on safety grounds”. He initially tweeted “Haven’t been included in final. Pretty gutted.”, but later added “Well done to the SA 4×400m team. Was really hard watching, knowing I deserved to be part of it.” Pistorius still won the silver medal because he ran in the heats, becoming the first amputee to win an able-bodied world track medal.
Reflecting on his World Championship debut, Pistorius said: “I really enjoyed the whole experience. I ran my second fastest time ever in the heats and was really pleased to have reached the semifinals. In the relay I was unbelievably chuffed to have broken the South African record, and hopefully my name will stay on that for a long time to come.”
On 4 July 2012, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) announced that Pistorius had been included in the Olympic team for the 400-metre and the 4 × 400 metres relay races.
2012 Summer Olympics
At the 2012 Summer Olympics on 4 August 2012, Pistorius became the first amputee runner to compete at an Olympic Games. In the 400 metres race, he took second place in the first heat of five runners, finishing with a time of 45.44 seconds (his best time of the season so far) to advance to the semifinals on 5 August. He ran in the second semifinal, where he finished eighth and last with a time of 46.54 seconds.
In the first semifinal of the 4 × 400 metres relay race on 9 August, the second runner of the South African team, Ofentse Mogawane, fell and was injured before reaching Pistorius, who was to have run the third leg. South Africa was passed into the final on appeal to the IAAF, due to interference by Vincent Kiilu, the Kenyan athlete who downed Mogawane. The South African relay team eventually finished eighth out of the field of nine in the final on 10 August. However, it established a season’s best time for the team of 3 minutes 3.46 seconds, with Pistorius running the final leg in 45.9 seconds. Pistorius was chosen to carry the South African flag for the closing ceremony.
2012 Summer Paralympics
Pistorius also carried the flag at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Paralympics on 29 August. He entered the T44 classification men’s 100 metres, 200 metres and 400 metres races, and the T42–T46 4 × 100 metres relay.
In the 200-metre competition, Pistorius established a new T43 world record of 21.30 seconds in his heat on 1 September, but he was defeated in the final the next day by Alan Oliveira of Brazil. Pistorius took silver, and then created a controversy by complaining about the length of Oliveira’s blades. He later apologised for the timing of his remarks, but not the content of his complaint.
The IPC confirmed the length of Oliveira’s blades were proportional to his body, with all the finalists measured before the race. The IPC also confirmed that Pistorius had raised the issue of blade length with it six weeks prior to the race. SASCOC issued a statement welcoming Pistorius’s apology for his outburst and declared their full support for him and promised to assist him in discussions with the IPC about the issue of lengthened prosthetics after the conclusion of the Games. The IPC expressed willingness to engage with Pistorius about the issue. Australian runner Jack Swift, USA runner Jerome Singleton, and other athletes also expressed support for Pistorius’s position.
Pistorius won a gold medal on 5 September running the anchor leg as part of the South African 4 × 100 metres relay team. The team set a world record time of 41.78 seconds. He was unsuccessful in defending his Beijing Olympics 100-metre title when he came fourth with a season’s best time of 11.17 seconds, and the race was won by Great Britain’s Jonnie Peacock. On 8 September, the last full day of competition, Pistorius won gold in the T44 400 metres with a time of 46.68 seconds, breaking the Paralympic record.
Other awards and accolades
In 2006, Pistorius was conferred the Order of Ikhamanga in Bronze (OIB) by the President of South Africa for outstanding achievement in sports. On 9 December 2007, Pistorius was awarded the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award, which is conferred for outstanding courage and achievement in the face of adversity.
In May 2008, Pistorius made the “Time 100” – Time magazine’s annual list of the world’s most influential people – appearing third in the “Heroes & Pioneers” section. Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to climb Mount Everest, wrote in an essay that Pistorius was “on the cusp of a paradigm shift in which disability becomes ability, disadvantage becomes advantage. Yet we mustn’t lose sight of what makes an athlete great. It’s too easy to credit Pistorius’ success to technology. Through birth or circumstance, some are given certain gifts, but it’s what one does with those gifts, the hours devoted to training, the desire to be the best, that is at the true heart of a champion.” In 2012 he made the list again.
In February 2012, Pistorius was awarded the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability for 2012. On 22 August 2012, he was honoured with the unveiling of a large mural depicting his achievements in the town of Gemona, Italy.
On 9 September 2012, Pistorius was shortlisted by the IPC for the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award as a competitor “who is fair, honest and is uncompromising in his or her values and prioritises the promotion of the Paralympic Movement above personal recognition”. According to director Craig Spence, he was nominated by an unnamed external organisation from South Korea. The award went to two other athletes.
After the 2012 Summer Paralympics, the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow announced they would confer on Pistorius, among others, an honorary doctorate. Sir Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University, said: “Each of our honorary graduands has excelled in their chosen field, and each has touched the lives of many others around the world. As a leading international technological university committed to excellence, it is fitting that we recognise their inspiring achievements and we look forward to welcoming them to the university in November.”
Sponsorship and charitable activities
Pistorius has sponsorship deals worth US$2 million a year with Össur, BT, Nike, Oakley and Thierry Mugler. In 2011, Pistorius participated as a model in an advertising campaign for a Thierry Mugler fragrance called A*Men.
In 2008, Pistorius collaborated in the release of a music CD called Olympic Dream. Produced in Italy, it consists of disco remixes of music pieces that Pistorius finds inspirational, and two tracks written for him, “Olympic Dream” and “Run Boy Run”, for which he provided voiceovers. Part of the CD’s proceeds of sale went to charity. Pistorius also actively supports the Mineseeker Foundation, a charity that works to raise awareness for landmine victims and has a support programme to provide prosthetics for victims.
On 21 February 2013, after previously suspending adverts that featured Pistorius and the line “I am the bullet in the chamber” in the wake of his shooting of Reeva Steenkamp, sportswear manufacturer Nike suspended its contract with Pistorius. It stated: “We believe Oscar Pistorius should be afforded due process and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Pistorius has two visible tattoos. The dates of his mother’s birth and death (“LVIII V VIII – II III VI” – 8 May 1958 – 6 March 2002) are tattooed on the inside of his right arm. The other tattoo, which is on his back, is the Bible verse 1 Corinthians 9:26–27 which begins, “I do not run like a man running aimlessly.” He used to own a house in South Africa which was sold in June 2014, and used to train for the European season in Gemona del Friuli, Italy. Aside from running, his interests include architecture, motorbiking, and breeding race horses.
Pistorius’s autobiography, Dream Runner, was published in Italian in 2008 with Gianni Merlo, a journalist with La Gazzetta dello Sport. An English version entitled Blade Runner was released in 2009. In 2010, Pistorius appeared on L’isola dei famosi, an Italian version of Celebrity Survivor.
On 7 January 2012, he appeared as a special guest on the Italian version of Dancing with the Stars called Ballando con le Stelle at Auditorium Rai in Rome, where he danced a tango with Annalisa Longo to ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All”. On 9 October 2012, Pistorius appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He was also scheduled to appear on Piers Morgan Tonight and the Larry King Now show at later dates.
In February 2009, Pistorius was seriously injured when he was thrown from a boat in an accident on the Vaal River near Johannesburg. He was airlifted to Milpark Hospital where he underwent surgery to repair broken facial bones including his nose and jaw. There were initial concerns about his fitness, but he recovered fully. However, the accident affected his training and running schedule for that year.
Pistorius was scheduled as an amateur golfer in the 2012 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship held at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns in Scotland. Pistorius has a 21 handicap in South Africa, but played off an 18 handicap for the Championship. In 2010 he played in the Laureus World Sports Awards Golf Challenge at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and the Help-net Fund Celebrity Charity Golf Day.
Killing of Reeva Steenkamp
In the early morning of Thursday, 14 February 2013, Pistorius shot and killed South African model Reeva Steenkamp, his girlfriend of three months, at his home in Pretoria. Pistorius acknowledges that he shot Steenkamp, causing her death, but says that he mistook her for a possible intruder.
Pistorius’ trial for murder began on 3 March 2014 in Pretoria. On 20 May 2014, the trial proceedings were adjourned until 30 June to enable Pistorius to undergo psychiatric evaluation to establish whether he was criminally responsible for shooting Steenkamp. Judge Thokozile Masipa agreed to a request for the evaluation by prosecutor Gerrie Nel after forensic psychiatrist Merryll Vorster testified for the defence that she had diagnosed Pistorius with generalized anxiety disorder.
On 30 June 2014, the trial resumed after the evaluation reports which said Pistorius could be held criminally responsible. The state prosecutor was quoted as saying, “Mr Pistorius did not suffer from a mental illness or defect that would have rendered him criminally not responsible for the offence charged”. The defence closed its case on 8 July and closing arguments were heard on 7 and 8 August.
On 12 September, Pistorius was found not guilty of murder, but was found guilty of culpable homicide and one firearm-related charge, of reckless endangerment related to discharging a firearm in a restaurant. Pistorius was found not guilty of two firearm-related charges relating to illegal possession of ammunition and firing a firearm through the sunroof of a car. On 21 October 2014, Pistorius received a prison sentence of a maximum of five years for culpable homicide and a concurrent three year suspended prison sentence for the separate reckless endangerment conviction.
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