The Case of Oscar Pistorius, World-Renowned Gold Medal Para-Athlete and Murderer

He was world-famous for his athletic achievements. He could run faster with prosthetic legs than most people who have the limbs they were born with are able. In 2011, he became the first amputee in history to win a world track medal. A year later, at the Summer Olympics in London, he was the first double-leg amputee to participate in any Olympic Games. He was on top of the world, and provided inspiration to an untold number of people around the globe. 

It all imploded in dramatic fashion on Valentine’s Day in 2013, when his blond model and paralegal girlfriend was shot four times in the bathroom of his home. The ensuing murder trial and appeals became South Africa’s version of the O.J. Simpson trial. So, what exactly happened to Oscar Pistorius?

During Pistorius’ trial for homicide, it became known that he was very fond of his firearms. Apparently, he had fired his gun through a car’s sunroof in one incident. In another incident, he fired his gun in a crowded restaurant. The latter earned him a conviction of negligently handling a firearm on top of his culpable homicide conviction for shooting and killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. 

Oscar and his girlfriend began dating in 2012, not even a year before their relationship ended with four gunshots through a bathroom door. There were rumors that the shooting death of Steenkamp was the grisly end result of a fight between her and Oscar that began when she received a text message from her ex-boyfriend, rugby player Francois Hougaard. 

No matter what reason Oscar thought he had for shooting his girlfriend, he contended at trial that he heard her in the bathroom and thought she was an intruder. The defense pulled out all the stops to try to show that Oscar had no prior intention to kill Steenkamp, including by introducing evidence that contended no gunshot residue showed up on his cutting-edge prosthetic legs. 

Culpable Homicide

South Africa’s court system is unique in that there are no juries in trials; a judge acts as the deciding party in criminal matters. Pistorius’ murder trial began in March 2014, roughly a year after he shot his girlfriend. Eventually, he was found guilty of culpable homicide and the one count of negligently handling a firearm. South Africa’s culpable homicide is roughly equivalent to the charge of involuntary manslaughter. 

Conviction Overturned

Interestingly, the prosecution appealed the conviction and the appeals court overturned his culpable homicide conviction and unanimously found him guilty of murder. The legal basis for this decision was that Pistorius must have known that the shots he fired from his particular gun would have been lethal. After a sentencing controversy, Pistorius was eventually sentenced to 13 years and is still incarcerated. He is not eligible for parole until 2023. 


Oscar Pistorius seemingly had it all. A beautiful girlfriend, millions in endorsement deals, and countless fawning fans. It was his seeming obsession with a gun, a firearm, that would eventually be his undoing.

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Abdallah Law

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