Oscar Pistorius Charged with Premeditated Murder Following Court Appearance

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2013

The Oscar Pistorius case has taken another major turn as the Olympic runner's charge has now been increased to premeditated murder by chief magistrate Desmond Nair. 

From Robyn Curnow and Holly Yan of CNN:

In an emotionally wrenching hearing Tuesday, a judge upgraded the charge against Oscar Pistorius to premeditated murder, saying he could not rule out the possibility that the track star planned the shooting death of girlfriend.

But the judge said he will consider downgrading the charge later.

Pistorius had been charged with murder for the Valentine's Day shooting of Reeva Steenkamp, and the hearing Tuesday was to determine whether he should be allowed to post bail.

Via the CNN report, the prosecution is arguing that Reeva Steenkamp was actually staying at Pistorius' house on the night of the shooting. When she went to use the bathroom, Pistorius put on his prosthetic legs, walked to the locked bathroom door, fired four shots through it and struck Steenkamp three times.

The defense has held that Pistorius shot Steenkamp with the thought that she was a burglar. It questioned how the prosecution would know such details of the shooting, seeing as only Pistorius and Steenkamp were present in the house.

In an affidavit after the magistrate's ruling, Pistorius' lawyer read his statement, as the Olympian was too emotional to read it himself. 

The following excerpts are taken from that statement (via News24):

I had no intention to kill my girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

I have been informed I have been accused of murder—I deny the accusation.


I sleep with my 9mm under my bed. I woke up to close the sliding door and heard a noise in the bathroom.

I was scared and didn't switch on the light. I got my gun and moved toward the bathroom. I screamed at the intruder because I did not have my legs on I felt vulnerable. I fired shots through the bathroom door and told Reeva to call police.


I tried to help her but she died in my arms.

Another intriguing aspect of this case will be the judicial system and media rights in South Africa, as Martin Rogers of Yahoo! writes:

The nature of the South African judicial system, which abolished jury trials in 1969 at a time when that nation's tortured racial history was approaching breaking point, means that a single judge, perhaps accompanied by one or more technical experts, will decide Pistorius' case.

That means that the typical media reporting restrictions that would be in place for a jury trial in the United States or most other legal jurisdictions based on the English common law system do not apply. In America, the kind of details that were reported over the past few days would not have been permitted under contempt of court regulations, for fear that its publication could influence the minds of potential jurors.

As this case develops, you can expect a level of leaked details that simply wouldn't be released publicly. It's one more aspect of this case that will make it so intriguing to follow, especially as Pistorius fights to earn bail.

The entire world is now watching this trial. The death of Steenkamp is incredibly sad no matter what the circumstances, but the thought that Pistorius may have committed premeditated murder adds a whole new level of depravity to the proceedings.


Follow TRappaRT on Twitter