Oscar Pistorius – A Tragic Case of Mistaken Identity?

Oscar Pistorius – A Tragic Case of Mistaken Identity?
Friday February 22, 2013

I have no experience or knowledge of South African criminal law.  However, I am not going to let that stand in the way of blogging about Oscar Pistorius’ application for bail.

A common sense approach to considering Pistorius’ bail application might suggest that he is at least guilty of manslaughter (the unintentional killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp).  Pistorius’ affidavit in support of his application does tend to leave the reader justifiably somewhat sceptical as to whether he accidentally shot (several times) to death Steenkamp who he was living with at the time.  Pistorius either murdered Steenkamp or is quite possibly the most reckless and dangerous professional sportsman in living history.

Regrettably, New Zealand has had its own string of genuinely fatal cases of mistaken identity.  It seems that no matter how many times hunters are told to identify their target (not just part of a target) and are sent to jail it does not stop them from shooting either their hunting mates or even someone brushing their teeth in a Department of Conservation campground.  Just to point out the obvious difference, Pistorius was not in thick bush hunting where you would not reasonably expect to come across someone other than yourself, he was not walking around during daylight hours, he did not sight his target or even shoot at what he thought he was looking at.  Rather, he has sworn an affidavit deposing that:

  1. He woke up during the early hours of 14 February 2013 (Valentine’s Day for the non-romantics);
  2. He went to his balcony to bring a fan inside;
  3. While walking around in his and Steenkamp’s bedroom in “pitch dark[ness]” he heard a noise and realised someone was in their toilet;
  4. He got his 9 mm Parabellum (not exactly a small gun) which he kept loaded under his bed;
  5. He noticed that the toilet door was closed;
  6. He “screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police.”;
  7. He then “fired shots at the toilet door”;
  8. He was “too scared to switch on the light”;
  9. He walked back to the bed, realised that Steenkamp was not there which was “when it dawned on me that it could have been Reeva who was in the toilet.”

You will know what happened next unless you are living in an igloo without access to recent media reports.

Perhaps it is just me but if you truly believed there was a modest (because the door was closed) but albeit dangerous intruder using your toilet would you really over look warning your girlfriend before retrieving your loaded 9 mm Parabellum from under the bed she was sleeping in?  Of course, I was not there and people do behave differently when they are “filled with horror and fear [when an] intruder [is] inside [your] toilet”.  But surely in pitch darkness, emptying a 9 mm gun into a toilet door, the same toilet you share with your girlfriend, the girlfriend who you did not check whether they were in the bed where you got your gun from, does tend to sound just a little bit suspicious.

I will leave it to you to form your own views regarding the merits of Pistorius’ bail application and his now disclosed defence.  His affidavit can be found at:

http://www.pod702.co.za/Eyewitnessnews/docs/130219oscar_papers.pdf

 

By Chris Patterson