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Pace Law

The Oscar Pistorius Murder Case

February 18, 2013

Toronto Personal Injury Lawyer Albert Conforzi: The Oscar Pistorius case murder investigation is grabbing headlines around the world. He stands accused of murdering his girlfriend, 29-year-old model and law graduate Reeva Steenkamp. Today, he appeared in court at a bail hearing.

Originally, the reports had Pistorius (famously known as the Blade Runner) mistaking his girlfriend for an intruder and shooting her dead. When heard like that, the story is tragically plausible. Don’t think so? Consider the case of another South African athlete, former rugby player Rudi Visagie.

Some years ago, Visagie awoke in the dark hours of the morning and thought his daughter’s car was being stolen. He fired a shot out his window and hit the driver. Moments later, he found his daughter dead behind the wheel. She had been on her way to surprise her boyfriend on his birthday, but hadn’t told her parents the plan.

So yes, mistaken identity can happen, with lethal results.

As the Pistorius investigation has unfolded in the last few days, however, it hasn’t looked good for the defence. From the National Post:

Oscar Pistorius told a packed courtroom Tuesday that he shot his girlfriend to death by mistake, thinking she was a robber. The prosecutor called it premeditated murder.

The double amputee said in an affidavit read by his lawyer at his bail hearing that he felt vulnerable because he did not have on his prosthetic legs when he pumped bullets into the locked bathroom door. Then, Pistorius said in the sworn statement, he realized that model Reeva Steenkamp was not in his bed.

“It filled me with horror and fear,” he said.

He put on his prosthetic legs, tried to kick down the door, then bashed it in with a cricket bat to find Steenkamp, 29, shot inside. He said he ran downstairs with her, but “She died in my arms.”

The presumption of innocence and guilt beyond a “reasonable” doubt are fundamental tenets of a modern criminal law system. Still, as I read the stories on this murder, I began to wonder how believable it was that a man could not know whether his girlfriend was beside him in bed, and further, what he thought a thief would be doing in his bathroom in the middle of a break-in?

Will the prosecution’s version that this was a premeditated murder be proven? Will Pistorius’ celebrity status hurt him or help him in the proceedings? Time will tell. Hopefully the whole truth will come out.

Albert Conforzi is a personal injury lawyer with Pace Law Firm in Toronto. His posts generally appear on Mondays.Pace’s personal injury lawyers have been helping accident victims since 1980.

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