Is Oscar Pistorius guilty of murder? Opinions on this case seem to be divided right down the middle. On the one hand, Pistorius lives in a violent country where the threat of intruders is very...

Is Oscar Pistorius guilty of murder?

Opinions on this case seem to be divided right down the middle. On the one hand, Pistorius lives in a violent country where the threat of intruders is very real. On the other, though, his version of events is confusing. What is your opinion of the case? If you were on a jury, how would you vote?

Expert Answers
durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In terms of Oscar Pistorius and whether he is guilty of murder, I would have to say that I believe in his innocence. Unfortunately, he did "kill" his girlfriend but, in my opinion, he did not murder her. In South Africa (SA), there is a "gun culture," especially in Johannesburg and Pretoria and in predominantly, Afrikaans families and communities, in which  Oscar Pistorius was raised.  From an international perspective and as pointed out in post #4 by mwestwood, there are things that may not seem to add up but, when you consider the South African element, those things are not so unusual (not to defend them in any way).

South Africans who live in Johannesburg and Pretoria are very aware of crime. Criminals are more violent and threatening there and crime is always something to be aware of during the daily routine. In other areas of SA, crime may also, like anywhere, be a factor, but criminals tend to focus on material possessions and vehicles and do not kill people (generally) at a whim. The same cannot be said for Johannesburg and Pretoria where, if someone breaks into your house, he will almost certainly have a gun and will not hesitate to shoot if you happen to disturb him- or even if you don't! Not to say that the residents constantly fear because they do take precautions and, in some instances, carrying their guns, or having them nearby, is also one of the reasons they feel they can protect themselves. I would just like to point out that it is some, not all, who do this. They are so aware and children are taught to be alert and alarm systems and armed (NB: armed) security companies are very prevalent, as are high perimeter walls, with electric fences, etc.   

Security is big business in Johannesburg and Pretoria. Dogs are kept as a first defense and so some dogs are quite vicious or even just very noisy. High walls protecting premises, security bars on all windows and alarm systems are standard and housing complexes, such as the one where Oscar Pistorius lived, or closed-off suburbs, are preferred by many people. However, those people still feel at risk as security companies are not always trusted - perhaps because the average "Jo'burger"  or "Gautenger" (to include Pretoria)is a little paranoid. 

Hence, it is not surprising that Pistorius felt threatened. The fact that he lived in a secure complex is small comfort and he would not have felt safe just because of that. Furthermore, he is a "celebrity" and people have been known to stalk and attack celebrities worldwide. He comes from a "gun culture" where average (Afrikaans) citizens keep a gun and trust no-one. Being skilled in handling and shooting a gun is also very normal in his environment. His uncles and other family members are surely skilled in hunting and have caught their fair share of Impala, Springbok and other favorite, South African game.  

People need to put themselves in his position. He does not have mobility, break-ins and the likelihood of a criminal carrying and using a gun, is almost guaranteed, it was the middle of the night and so he would have been a little disoriented and, fear makes people act first and think later. The fact that he never checked for Reeva's whereabouts is also acceptable as he would not want her to wake and put herself in harm's way. He is a driven and extremely focused person- he was focusing on protecting himself and Reeva. He believes he is invincible- the world has led him to believe he is!  

As far as being reckless with a firearm, I believe, sadly, that that is also not so unusual for someone who, with his exposure to guns, has been encouraged to always put himself first and win at all costs. The world hailed him as a hero for disabled persons and placed him on a pedestal so high that he could only fall off! Consider his life. Not to defend it in any way but, in mitigation of his previous actions involving guns, fun for him needs to be extreme and, back to his culture, "playing" with guns sounds, to him, like fun. Oscar Pistorius does not have to think about consequences. Someone will always be there to help him because he is a hero.

Judging Oscar Pistorius is unlikely to give Reeva Steenkamps's family the closure they want. Tragically, he killed his girlfriend but society is a lot more complicit in his actions than it will ever admit.  

kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As someone who believes O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, and Phil Spector (who actually was convicted of second-degree murder in a second trial following an inconclusive first trial) are all guilty of murdering their wives/girlfriends, and having followed a large number of similar, less well-known cases over decades, my gut instinct based upon news stories is that Oscar Pistorius is guilty of murdering Reeva Steenkamp.  Not having witnessed the crime, and not having the “advantage” of attending the trial and hearing and seeing one-hundred percent of the testimony and evidence, my opinion remains under-informed with respect to Pistorius’ trial, and I generally eschew judgments under such circumstances, but it strains credulity that Pistorius mistakenly shot Steenkamp.  Yes, South Africa is a very violent country, with robberies and murders of prosperous whites and blacks not uncommon.  That Pistorius would fire his weapon at an unseen target out of sheer ignorance and fear is entirely possible; murders and self-defense killings have occurred under such circumstances.  The history of similar shootings, however, combined with the inconsistencies the prosecutor in this trial has exposed in the defendant’s statements and testimony leaves me definitely leaning towards a guilty verdict.  The relationship between Pistorius and Steenkamp appears to have been strained, and Pistorius has been less than honest about the nature of that relationship in terms of its history and intensity.  In addition, Pistorius has been undeniably dishonest regarding a violent confrontation he had in late 2012, following which he received stitches for a wound to the back of his head.  His history of shading or denying the truth on a number of issues, both large and small, badly damaged his credibility.  That he would claim he believed he was shooting at an intruder in his bathroom, through a closed door, while the only other person in his home was the victim does not help his case.  To reiterate, then, I do believe that he is guilty of murder, although, as with Spector, not of premeditated or first-degree murder. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As with the first answer, I have to specify that I do not have enough information to truly know whether Pistorius is guilty of murder.  None of us has seen all of the evidence that has been presented at the trial and therefore none of us is in a position to truly judge this case.

That said, I believe that he is more likely to be guilty of manslaughter than of murder.  At the most, I would say he would be guilty of murder in the second degree (unpremeditated). In order for him to be guilty of murder, it will need to be shown that there was some clear motive for him to have murdered Steenkamp.  Unless a person was actually present in the house in the time leading up to the shooting, it is impossible for them to know what the state of the relationship between Pistorius and Steenkamp was on that night.  The prosecution will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Pistorius was so angry at Steenkamp that he intentionally killed her.  It seems that it would be exceedingly difficult to prove such a thing given that no one else was in the home.

With this in mind, I think that I would vote to find him guilty of manslaughter.  I believe that he did shoot through the door without having any idea who was behind it.  I think it is likely that he knew it was Steenkamp.  However, I have no way of proving this since there are no witnesses to the event.  Therefore, I do not think that I would vote for a guilty verdict.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several personal characteristics about Oscar Pistorius that do not go in his favor:

  1. He has a reputation of being careless with weapons
  2. He once fired rounds inside a vehicle and within a restaurant and allegedly through the sunroof of a girlfriend
  3. He is known for having a bad temper
  4. He is know for being jealous
  5. He is a rich superstar used to having his way

Surely, it is a rash action to shoot through a door when one has no idea of who is on the other side. Ironically, this may help Pistorius if convicted. For, then, with his history of impulsive actions, he may get his sentence reduced to manslaughter. Or, he may be acquitted later if charged with murder because the South African courts have no juries and the appellate court has a better chance of overturning the findings of a lower court.

Verdict: Guilty. Possibly charged with manslaughter.

mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I believe that Oscar Pistorius is guilty of murder, sad to say.  His version of events really doesn't add up in the real world.  The argument he had with his girlfriend before he fired gunshots into the closed bathroom door negate his contention that he thought she was an intruder.  The question of her screams has never been settled, nor does it make sense that she would be quiet while hiding in the bathroom if she were an intruder.  Pistorius has been shown to have a temper with a short fuse and murder often comes with intense emotion.  If I were on the jury, I would vote for Pistorius as guilty.  Now, the question becomes was it intentional, premeditated murder.  I believe it was, and would vote for imprisonment for his murder of his girlfriend.

parama9000 | Student

He has a bad history with weapons- sentence will be reduced taken into account

He was killing out of supposed self-defense-prevalent crime history in Africa could help to account for that.

The judging will be held in Africa-so the real world understanding/view on the matter will not be of substantial influence.

Possibly, he will be acquitted as socio-environmental factors can be accounted for the murder, but even if the verdict is guilty, he will get a lighter sentence.