Prison looms for Oscar Pistorius after murder conviction

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Oscar Pistorius Verdict Changed To Murder, Faces 15 Years in Prison


JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Oscar Pistorius was convicted of murder on Thursday by a South African appeals court that described the once-glittering story of the double-amputee Olympian and Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend he killed in his home in 2013, as "a human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions."

The Supreme Court of Appeal overturned a lower court's conviction on the less serious charge of manslaughter, adding another twist to a case that riveted people around the world because of its gripping saga of a celebrity athlete's plunge from grace by his own hand.

"The accused ought to have been found guilty of murder on the basis that he had fired the fatal shots with criminal intent," Justice Lorimer Eric Leach said in the courtroom in Blomefontein, in which Steenkamp's mother, June, sat impassively. Pistorius was not there.

The murder conviction means Pistorius will almost certainly go back to jail, where he spent one year of a 5-year prison sentence before being put under house arrest at his uncle's mansion in Pretoria in October.

The minimum sentence for murder in South Africa is 15 years, but exceptional circumstances in the case of the former track star, including time already served, his disability and status as a first-time offender, could mean he'll get a lower sentence.

Sentencing is up to the North Gauteng High Court, where Pistorius was tried. South African media said Judge Thokozile Masipa, who presided over the original trial, will handle the matter. No sentencing date has been set.

RELATED GALLERY: See photos from the crime scene:

11 PHOTOS
Oscar Pistorius crime scene photos
See Gallery
Prison looms for Oscar Pistorius after murder conviction
CORRECTS DATES - This Feb. 14, 2013 handout photo supplied by the South African Police Services (SAPC) and used as evidence shows Oscar Pistorius photographed at his home after the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius was found guilty Friday, Sept 12, 2014 of culpable homicide.(AP Photo/South African Police Services) MANDATORY CREDIT
CORRECTS DATES - This Feb. 14, 2013 handout photo supplied by the South African Police Services (SAPC) and used as evidence shows scenes at the home of Oscar Pistorius after the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius was found guilty Friday, Sept 12, 2014 of culpable homicide.(AP Photo/South African Police Services) MANDATORY CREDIT
CORRECTS DATES - This Feb. 14, 2013 handout photo supplied by the South African Police Services (SAPC) and used as evidence shows scenes at the home of Oscar Pistorius after the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius was found guilty Friday, Sept 12, 2014 of culpable homicide.(AP Photo/South African Police Services) MANDATORY CREDIT
CORRECTS DATES - This Feb. 14, 2013 handout photo supplied by the South African Police Services (SAPC) and used as evidence shows scenes at the home of Oscar Pistorius after the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius was found guilty Friday, Sept 12, 2014 of culpable homicide.(AP Photo/South African Police Services) MANDATORY CREDIT
CORRETS DATES - This Feb. 14, 2013 handout photo supplied by the South African Police Services (SAPC) and used as evidence shows scenes at the home of Oscar Pistorius after the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius was found guilty Friday, Sept 12, 2014 of culpable homicide.(AP Photo/South African Police Services) MANDATORY CREDIT
CORRECTS DATES - This Feb. 14, 2013 handout photo supplied by the South African Police Services (SAPC) and used as evidence shows scenes at the home of Oscar Pistorius after the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius was found guilty Friday, Sept 12, 2014 of culpable homicide.(AP Photo/South African Police Services) MANDATORY CREDIT
CORRECTS DATES - This Feb. 14, 2013 handout photo supplied by the South African Police Services (SAPC) and used as evidence shows scenes at the home of Oscar Pistorius after the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius was found guilty Friday, Sept 12, 2014 of culpable homicide.(AP Photo/South African Police Services) MANDATORY CREDIT
CORRECTS DATES - This Feb. 14, 2013 handout photo supplied by the South African Police Services (SAPC) and used as evidence shows scenes at the home of Oscar Pistorius after the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius was found guilty Friday, Sept 12, 2014 of culpable homicide.(AP Photo/South African Police Services) MANDATORY CREDIT
CORRECTS DATES - This Feb. 14, 2013 handout photo supplied by the South African Police Services (SAPC) and used as evidence shows Oscar Pistorius photographed at his home after the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius was found guilty Friday, Sept 12, 2014 of culpable homicide.(AP Photo/South African Police Services) MANDATORY CREDIT
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

The National Prosecuting Authority will wait for word from the trial court about possible sentencing dates, said Luvuyo Mfaku, a spokesman for the authority.

The Pistorius family said in a statement: "The legal team will study the finding and we will be guided by them in terms of options going forward."

Johann Engelbrecht, a criminal lawyer who is not involved in the Pistorius case, said it is doubtful that the former athlete's lawyers could challenge the murder conviction by appealing to the Constitutional Court. He speculated that prosecutors would want the sentencing process to proceed swiftly rather than let Pistorius remain under house arrest for an extended period.

Pistorius, a multiple Paralympic champion, became the first amputee to run at the Olympics and the able-bodied world championships. He was known as "Blade Runner" for his carbon-fiber running blades.

"This case involves a human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions," Leach said while delivering the ruling on behalf of the five-judge appeals court.

"A young man overcomes huge physical disabilities to reach Olympian heights as an athlete," he said. "In doing so he becomes an international celebrity. He meets a young woman of great natural beauty and a successful model. Romance blossoms and then ironically, on Valentine's Day, all is destroyed when he takes her life."

Steenkamp, a model who appeared in a television reality show, had planned to give a speech touching on domestic abuse and family relationships at a school on the day she died. In a tweet the day before she died, she wrote: "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow???"

Leach witheringly described Pistorius' often tearful trial testimony as "vacillating and untruthful" and said Masipa, the judge who convicted him of manslaughter, committed an "error in law" by incorrectly applying a legal principle called "dolus eventualis."

Under that concept, a person can be convicted of murder if he or she foresaw the possibility of someone dying through their actions and went ahead anyway.

Pistorius, 29, insisted he shot Steenkamp by mistake, thinking there was an intruder behind the door of a toilet cubicle in his home. The prosecution said Pistorius shot Steenkamp during an argument.

35 PHOTOS
Oscar Pistorius convicted of murder during appeal
See Gallery
Prison looms for Oscar Pistorius after murder conviction
FILE - In this Friday, Feb 22, 2013 file photo photographers take photos of Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius as he appears at a bail hearing for the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, in Pretoria, South Africa. The South African court of appeal Thursday Dec. 3 2015 has convicted Pistorius of murder, overturning his manslaughter conviction. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)
In this Friday, Sept. 12, 2015 file photo, Oscar Pistorius puts his hand on his face in court in Pretoria, South Africa, as judgement is passed in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The South African appeals court convicted Pistorius, Thursday Sept. 3, 2015 of murder, overturning a lower court's conviction of the double-amputee Olympian on the lesser charge of manslaughter for shooting his girlfriend to death in 2013. (AP Photo/Alon Skuy, Pool, File)
June Steenkamp, centre, the mother of Reeve Steenkamp, is comforted as appeals court judge Eric Leach delivers his verdict, during the appeals court hearing, in Bloemfontein, South Africa, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015. A South African appeals court on Thursday convicted Oscar Pistorius of murder, overturning a lower court's conviction of the double-amputee Olympian on the lesser charge of manslaughter for shooting girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp to death in 2013. (AP Photo/Johan Pretorius, Pool)
Appeals court judge Eric Leach reads out the court findings, during the appeals court hearing, in Bloemfontein, South Africa, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015. A South African appeals court on Thursday convicted Oscar Pistorius of murder, overturning a lower court's conviction of the double-amputee Olympian on the lesser charge of manslaughter for shooting girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp to death in 2013. (AP Photo/Johan Pretorius, Pool)
June Steenkamp, the mother of Reeve Steenkamp, listens as appeals court judge Eric Leach delivers his verdict, during the appeals court hearing, in Bloemfontein, South Africa, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015. A South African appeals court on Thursday convicted Oscar Pistorius of murder, overturning a lower court's conviction of the double-amputee Olympian on the lesser charge of manslaughter for shooting girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp to death in 2013. (AP Photo/Johan Pretorius, Pool)
FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2012 file photo, South African Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp arrive for an awards ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa. The South African court of appeal Thursday, Dec. 3 2015 convicted Pistorius of murder, overturning a lower court's conviction of the double-amputee Olympian on the lesser charge of manslaughter for shooting his girlfriend to death in 2013. (Lucky Nxumalo/Citypress via AP, File) SOUTH AFRICA OUT
Oscar Pistorius, right, prepares to be led out of court in Pretoria, South Africa, Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, Pool)
CORRECTS TO THURSDAY - FILE - In this Thursday Sept. 11, 2015 file photo, Oscar Pistorius reacts in the dock as Judge Thokozile Masipa delivers her verdict during his murder trial in Pretoria, South Africa. The appeals court in Bloemfontein, South Africa, Thursday, Dec. 3 2015, convicted Pistorius of murder, overturning a lower court's conviction of the double-amputee Olympian on the lesser charge of manslaughter for shooting his girlfriend to death in 2013. (AP Photo/Kim Ludbrook, File, Pool)
FILE - In this Oct. 21, 2014 file photo Oscar Pistorius, center, touches hands with family members as he is led down to the cells of the court in Pretoria, South Africa to serve a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. (AP Photo/Herman Verwey, Pool)
Oscar Pistorius, center, arrives outside the court in Pretoria, South Africa, Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014. Pistorius will finally learn his fate when judge Thokozile Masipais is expected to announce the Olympic runner's sentence for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp (AP Photo/Antoine de Ras, Independent Newspapers) SOUTH AFRICA OUT
FILE - In this Friday, Oct. 17, 2014 file photo, Oscar Pistorius is escorted by police officers as he leaves the high court in Pretoria, South Africa. The South African court of appeal Thursday Dec. 3 2015 has convicted Pistorius of murder, overturning his manslaughter conviction. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)
Oscar Pistorius sits in court before the fourth day of sentencing proceedings in the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Yesterday saw the first family member, first cousin of the late Reeva Steenkamp, Kim Martin, testified at the double-amputee athlete's trial. Pistorius faces up to 15 years in prison after being convicted of culpable homicide, or negligent killing, for shooting Steenkamp, although he could also receive a suspended jail sentence and a fine. (AP Photo/Alon Skuy, Pool)
FILE - In this Oct. 15 2014 file photo Reeva Steenkamp's father Barry Steenkamp, right, cries as he is comforted by his wife June, left, as they listen to proceedings during the third day of sentencing for Oscar Pistorius at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, Pistoriusâ release from prison to serve the remainder of a five-year manslaughter sentence under house arrest was the latest chapter in the story of a once-inspiring double-amputee runner who made history at the Olympics, and then killed his girlfriend Steenkamp (AP Photo/Antoine de Ras, Pool, File)
Oscar Pistorius arrives at court in Pretoria, South Africa, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Judge Thokozile Masipa is to deliver a judgment. Pistorius could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder. He could also be convicted of a lesser murder charge or negligent killing, both of which call for years in jail. The judge could acquit him if she believes the 27-year-old made a tragic error. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
FILE - In this Tuesday May, 20, 2014, file photo Oscar Pistorius outside the HIgh Court in Pretoria, South Africa. The South African court of appeal Thursday Dec. 3 2015 has convicted Pistorius of murder, overturning his manslaughter conviction. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday March 14 2014 file photo Oscar Pistorius appears in the dock on the second day of his trial at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistoriusâ release from prison to serve the remainder of a five-year manslaughter sentence under house arrest was the latest chapter in the story of a once-inspiring double-amputee runner who made history at the Olympics, and then killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. (AP Photo/Kim Ludbrook,Pool, File)
FILE - In this April 14, 2014 file photo South African chief state prosecutor Gerrie Nel gestures as he explains a possible scenario into how Oscar Pistorius might have fired on girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, in court in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistoriusâ release from prison to serve the remainder of a five-year manslaughter sentence under house arrest was the latest chapter in the story of a once-inspiring double-amputee runner who made history at the Olympics, and then killed his girlfriend. (AP Photo/Antoine de Ras, Pool, File)
FILE - In this Monday April 7, 2014 file photo, Oscar Pistorius weeps as he listens to evidence by a pathologist in court in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistoriusâ release from prison to serve the remainder of a five-year manslaughter sentence under house arrest was the latest chapter in the story of a once-inspiring double-amputee runner who made history at the Olympics, and then killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, Pool-File)
Oscar Pistorius rubs his eye in court in Pretoria, South Africa, Tuesday, April 15, 2014, after earlier questioning by state prosecutor Gerrie Nel. Pistorius is charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. (AP Photo/Siphiwe Sibeko, Pool)
FILE - In this Tuesday March 14 2014 file photo Oscar Pistorius appears in the dock on the second day of his trial at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa. (AP Photo/Kim Ludbrook,Pool, File)
Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock inside court in Pretoria, South Africa, Friday, March 28, 2014, as members of his defense team, foreground, talk over benches. The murder trial of Oscar Pistorius has been delayed until April 7 because one of the legal experts who will assist the judge in reaching a verdict is sick, abruptly ending expectations Friday that the double-amputee athlete was about to testify on his fatal shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. (AP Photo/Werner Beukes, Pool)
Oscar Pistorius, puts his hands to his head while listening to evidence from a witness speaking about the morning of the shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, in court on the fourth day of his trial at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, Thursday, March 6, 2014. Pistorius is charged with murder for the shooting death of his girlfriend, Steenkamp, on Valentines Day in 2013. (AP Photo/Marco Longari, Pool)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 file photo pallbearers carry the coffin of Reeva Steenkamp, the late girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius, at her funeral in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Pistoriusâ release from prison to serve the remainder of a five-year manslaughter sentence under house arrest was the latest chapter in the story of a once-inspiring double-amputee runner who made history at the Olympics, and then killed his girlfriend, Steenkamp. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam-file)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 file photo a mourner holds a funeral program with a portrait of Reeva Steenkamp, the late girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam-file)
ALTERNATIVE CROP A picture taken on January 26, 2013 shows Olympian sprinter Oscar Pistorius posing next to his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg. South Africa's Olympic sprinter Oscar 'Blade Runner' Pistorius was taken into police custody on February 14, 2013, after allegedly shooting dead his model girlfriend having mistaken her for an intruder at his upscale home. AFP PHOTO / WALDO SWIEGERS (Photo credit should read WALDO SWIEGERS/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Friday, Feb 15, 2013 file photo Oscar Pistorius, centre, accompanied by his brother Carl, right, is led from the Boschkop police station east of Pretoria, en route to court, for his bail hearing in the murder case of his girlfriend Pistoriusâ release from prison to serve the remainder of a five-year manslaughter sentence under house arrest was the latest chapter in the story of a once-inspiring double-amputee runner who made history at the Olympics, and then killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his home. (AP Photo)
FILE - In this Thursday, Feb 14, 2013 file photo Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius leaves the Boschkop police station, east of Pretoria, South Africa, while in custody after the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, at his home. Pistoriusâ release from prison to serve the remainder of a five-year manslaughter sentence under house arrest was the latest chapter in the story of a once-inspiring double-amputee runner who made history at the Olympics, and then killed Steenkamp. (AP Photo)
FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2013 file photo taken from video provided by VNS24/7 shows the home of Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius in a gated housing complex in Pretoria, where he shot and killed his girlfriend. Pistoriusâ release from prison to serve the remainder of a five-year manslaughter sentence under house arrest was the latest chapter in the story of a once-inspiring double-amputee runner who made history at the Olympics, and then killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. (AP Photo/VNS24/7-File)
FILE - In this Thursday 14, 2013 file photo taken through a car window shows workers taking down a billboard of Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, bottom left, endorsing a product in Johannesburg, after Pistorius was taken into custody after a 30-year-old woman, Reeva Steenkamp, was shot dead at his home. Pistoriusâ release from prison to serve the remainder of a five-year manslaughter sentence under house arrest was the latest chapter in the story of a once-inspiring double-amputee runner who made history at the Olympics, and then killed his girlfriend Steenkamp. (AP Photo/Dion Chang-file)
FILE - In this Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, file photo, South Africa's gold medalist Oscar Pistorius poses with his medal after winning the men's 400 meters T44 category final during the athletics competition at the 2012 Paralympics, in London. Pistoriusâ release from prison to serve the remainder of a five-year manslaughter sentence under house arrest was the latest chapter in the story of a once-inspiring double-amputee runner who made history at the Olympics, and then killed his girlfriend. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)
South Africa's Oscar Pistorius runs in one of the men's 400-meter semifinal races during the athletics competition in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012 file photo, South Africa's Oscar Pistorius, center, leads Jamaica's Rusheen McDonald, left, Dominican Republic's Luguelin Santos, second left, and Russia's Maksim Dyldin, right, in a men's 400-meter heat during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, in London. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus, File)
South Africa's Oscar Pistorius competes in a men's 400-meter heat during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa De Olza)
South Africa's Oscar Pistorius gestures after qualifying following a Men's 400m heat at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Leach said that regardless of who Pistorius said he thought was behind the door, he should have known someone could be killed if he fired.

There was initial confusion in the court when the judge preceded his reading of the Pistorius ruling by saying an appeal had been dismissed. He was referring to a separate legal case, but some news organizations incorrectly reported that Pistorius had not been convicted of murder. The Associated Press did not make the error. It was unknown if Pistorius was watching the TV broadcast or monitoring the initial news reports online that suggested he would serve no more prison time.

There was no sign of Pistorius outside the home of his uncle, Arnold. As the judge began to read the decision, broadcast live on TV, the uncle was seen rushing into the house. Later, the uncle drove off in a car.

Reeva Steenkamp's father, Barry, told South African television channel ANN7 that the judgment was fair.

"Let us now all get on with our lives," he said. His voice breaking with emotion, he said of his daughter: "I'm sure she'll be able to rest as well now."

Read Full Story

People are Reading