Oscar Pistorius parole

VERDICT: Oscar Pistorius GUILTY of culpable homicide; granted bail till sentencing

After dismissing charges of murder, and two lesser charges involving firearms and ammunition, Pistorius was found to be negligent on the night of the shooting, and therefore guilty of culpable homicide. He will face his sentencing in due course

Oscar Pistorius parole


“A reasonable person, with a similar disability, would have foreseen that the person behind the door would be killed, and the accused failed to take action to avoid this.” — Judge Masipa

With these words, Judge Thokozile Masipa delivered her culpable homicide verdict on Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius in the murder case of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The basis for the verdict built on the evidence that Pistorius had acted negligently when he had fired four shots at her while she was situated behind his bathroom door. According to the judge, a reasonable person would have acted in a way that would avoid the killing of the person behind the door and found that Pistorius had not taken those steps. As the beginning of the dates for his sentencing hearings were announced for October, Pistorius was granted an extension of his current bail conditions.

By the end of Day 1, Masipa had already stated that there had been a display of clear negligence demonstrated by Pistorius in his actions on the night of Reeva Steenkamp’s death – evidence of which was necessary for the charge of culpable homicide.

Pistorius had also been found guilty of a firearms charge earlier on the same day, which by itself can carry a prison sentence of up to five years under South African law. With the culpable homicide verdict also hanging over his head, Oscar Pistorius’ future will remain uncertain until the judge returns with a sentence, which will not occur today. Here are the possible sentences:



Pistorius faces up to 15 years in prison. There is no minimum sentence for culpable homicide, and the length of the sentence would be left to her sole discretion. However, the majority of contemporary verdicts of Culpable Homicide in South Africa have only ever received lesser prison sentences, such as four years’ imprisonment (Mapipa vs The State), five years’ imprisonment (Nikelo vs The State) or eight years’ imprisonment (The State vs Nesane). These sentences have largely been justified on account of mitigating circumstances in each one of the cases. With Judge Masipa already acknowledging a host of extenuating circumstances in the case of Oscar Pistorius, it would be difficult to justify giving him the maximum prison sentence of 15 years. The Pistorius defense team would also fight appeals on any front available if a harsh prison sentence was given.

Suspended Sentence

Masipa could still find Pistorius guilty on principle but not find it justifiable to send him to jail, forcing him to report to parole officers for years to come under a Suspended Sentence. Pistorius would have to spend years under strict parole controls, but by giving him a Suspended Sentence, Judge Masipa would basically leave Pistorius to show that he is indeed capable of walking on the right side of the law.

Correctional Supervision

In the wake of the end of apartheid, alternative methods of punishment were introduced to the South African legal framework, which are all clustered under the umbrella term of Correctional Supervision. These options can even be taken into consideration in Murder trials under the discretion of the presiding judge. Under these guidelines, Judge Masipa could use her discretion to come up with a more creative solution in dealing with the case against Oscar Pistorius. Taking his hardships as a double amputee into consideration (as well as his fame), Masipa could hand out house arrest and/or a community service sentence with a few years of prison time potentially built in as part of the package deal.

Not Guilty of Murder

“The state has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder. There are not enough facts.” — Judge Masipa

At the end of day one on Thursday, Judge Masipa had left many shocked when she ruled out murder (as well as premeditated murder), announcing that there had been no demonstrable intent to kill, which provides the main prerequisite for a murder conviction. She had hinted at the eventual charge of culpable homicide already, saying it would be a “competent verdict”. Judge Masipa’s options for the verdict at the end of Day 1 included acquittal as one extreme, and guilty verdicts for all charges on the other, pinning Culpable Homicide somewhere in the middle. Now that acquital and two lesser charges are off the cards, here’s an overview Masipa’s current options for sentencing Pistorius:

Oscar infographic update


Overview of the verdict

Judge Masipa recapped on the final verdict day that throughout her month-long deliberation she had found no basis for the court to rule that Pistorius had deliberately wanted to murder his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013, and that the prosecution had failed to deliver proof of any such motive. Masipa had also dismissed nearly all eyewitness statements in the case, delivering a massive blow against the aggressive endeavours of Gerrie Nel’s prosecution team to get a murder verdict. Judge Masipa then began addressing her final verdict by presenting the charges against Pistorius in a seemingly random order:

COUNT 2: Discharging a firearm in public – Not Guilty. Pistorius was acquitted of these charges, as Judge Masipa said that the state had failed to prove Pistorius’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As on Day 1, Judge Masipa discounted the evidence provided by witnesses.

COUNT 3: Illegal possession of a firearm – Guilty.

COUNT 4: Illegal possession of ammunition – Not Guilty. The Judge ruled that the State had failed to prove that Pistorius had shown intention to possess ammunition.

COUNT 1: Murder – Not Guilty. Pistorius was found not guilty but eventually pronounced guilty of culpable homicide, awaiting final sentencing hearing in October.


Background of the court case

South Africa and indeed the entire world had held its breath over the past seven months, as gruesome details relating to Steenkamp’s death were hashed out in great detail. The media attention in South Africa alone broke various records, initially getting ahead of itself and threatening to jeopardise the integrity of the trial, forcing Judge Masipa to tell off courtroom reporters. The infant terrible of South Africa’s social commentary Jani Allan had even claimed that Pistorius was coached to deliver a performance in court. Some have dubbed the Pistorius trial the “trial of the century”, drawing parallels and comparisons to OJ Simpson’s trial in the United States two decades ago.

Oscar Pistorius was reported to have sold the majority of his assets in order to afford his costly defence, as the mood had turned against the Paralympian early on. But the investigation in the case had suffered some heavy blows well before the trial had even begun, with court evidence originally held against him eventually turning in his favour. The Chief Investigator on the case, Commander Colonel Schoombie van Rensburg quit on account of revelations pertaining to severe contamination at the crime scene. His departure came barely half a year after the original investigating officer Hilton Botha had also resigned following some major embarrassments relating to Pistorius’ original bail application.