Why 'blade runner' Oscar Pistorius faces culpable homicide: Explained

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Oscar Pistorius
South African sprint runner Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of culpable homicide in the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on February 14, 2013.

Who is Oscar Pistorius?

  • Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius is a leading South African sprint runner. 
  • Born with a congenital abnormality, Pistorius had both his legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old.
  • Pistorius competes in events for single below-knee amputees and for able-bodied athletes.
  • He hit headlines by winning multiple Paralympic Games and the 2012 Summer Olympics. 
  • He is famously known as 'blade runner'.

What is his crime?

  • Pistorius, 27, was arrested on the charges of the murder of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, in Pretoria in 2013.
  • Reports say he murdered Steenkamp following an argument in the wee hours of Valentine's Day in 2013. 
  • He fired four shots into a bathroom at his home killing his girlfriend.
  • But, Pistorius says he mistook her for an intruder.

The trial

  • Pistorius was taken into police custody and formally charged with murder of his girlfriend in a Pretoria court on 15 February, 2013.
  • On 25 February 2014, Pretoria High Court ruled that the entire trial may be broadcast live via audio and that parts of the trial may be broadcast live via TV.
  • On Sept 11, South African judge found Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius "negligent" but not guilty of murdering his girlfriend. 
  • On the charge of murder, judge said, "the accused is found not guilty and is discharged, but he is found guilty of culpable homicide."
  • On Sept 12, Judge Thokozile Masipa extended Pistorius's bail and set a date of October 13 for sentencing.

What is Oscar Pistorius charged with?

  • Pistorius has not been charged premeditated murder of his girlfriend.
  • Instead, the judge found Pistorius guilty of the culpable homicide of Steenkamp.
  • He also faces a gun charge related to the killing, along with two additional gun-related charges for two separate instances.

What is culpable homicide?

  • It involves the illegal killing of a person either with or without an intention to kill.
  • In South Africa, culpable homicide is defined simply as "unlawful or negligent killing". The offence of culpable homicide does not require intent or premeditation.
  • The sentence for a culpable homicide conviction in South Africa is at the judge's discretion.
  • Also, it can range from a suspended sentence and a fine upto a maximum of 15 years in prison.

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