Oscar Pistorius: What’s the Story?

Before this week, those who know the name Oscar Pistorius may view him as a huge achievement for prosthetics science and human ingenuity.  Now, that name is the primary suspect in a murder case in South Africa.

Pistorius made headlines as an Olympic sprinter even though, due to amputation, he runs with the use of state-of-the-art “blade” prosthetics.  He was the first amputee to win an able-body world track medal.  He participated in the 2012 Olympics for South Africa.

But, Pistorius is facing a premeditated murder charge for actions that took place on February 14th 2013.

Though there are competing reports as to the facts of that night, several facts are clear.  Mr. Pistorius was dating Reeva Steenkamp.  On the night of February 14th, Pistorius and Steenkamp were alone in a house and at 3a.m. Pistorius shot, through a bathroom door, Steenkamp.  Pistorius then broke down the door and carried her down the stairs where she died before help could arrive.

Pistorius contends that he was concerned that someone had broken into the house and that he feared for his and Steenkamp’s safety.  The area in which Pistorius lives is known for excessive violent crime. Pistorius was concerned someone had entered through his bathroom window as there were ladders in the garden, left by construction workers, and his windows didn’t have bars.

Pistorius recalls calling out to Steenkamp to phone the police as he believed her to be in bed.  He retrieved his pistol and began to walk on his stumps toward the bathroom.  He contends that his fear was exasperated by the fact that he didn’t have his prosthetics on.

Pistorius then fired four shots into the bathroom door. Only then did Pistorius consider that Steenkamp could have been in the bathroom.

Pistorius attempted to call for help from his window before breaking down the locked door.

The prosecutor contends that the killing was premeditated as a burglar wouldn’t lock him or herself in a bathroom.

There are three primary concerns that hurt Mr. Pistorius’ case.  First, how did he not notice that Steenkamp wasn’t in bed? Second, If he did yell to her, why didn’t he wait for a response? Finally, there are conflicting reports as to when Pistorius put on his prosthetic legs. If he did it before the shots it would tend to demonstrate that he could have ascertain the nature of the situation.

Even if it turns out to be a tragic mistake, Pistorius may still face a potential conviction. According to a South African violent crime researcher, Antony Altbeker, interviewed by the New York Times, Pistorius could have faced a murder conviction if he shot a burglar within his home.

To many Americans, and, likely, many Arizonans, this may seem odd.  We’ve been exposed to so many stories regarding home owner’s ability to “stand their ground” to defend themselves from perceived serious harm.

Under the A.R.S Chapter 13, Section 4, an individual is justified in using deadly force to protect themselves  or another when physical or deadly force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other.  Further, a person does not need to retreat before using deadly physical force in Arizona so long as the person is in a place where the person may legally be and was not engaged in an unlawful act.

In Arizona, considering Pistorius’ contentions and the nature of the situation and the laws, the prosecutor would have a difficult time overcoming the stand your ground law to demonstrate premeditation.  If you would like to share you opinion, feel free to contact one of the 24 hour Tucson DUI lawyers of Ariano & Reppucci today.