South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeals on Thursday found Oscar Pistorius guilty of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013, a move that overturns a former, less severe conviction of manslaughter.
In South Africa, the distinction between a conviction of manslaughter and one of murder depends on whether the court rules that the suspect had intent to kill.
Judge Eric Leach said that a lower court’s previous decision misapplied the principle of “dolus eventualis,” a legal principle in South Africa that refers to a suspect’s intent, and that by firing his gun Pistorius “must have foreseen that whoever was behind the door might die,” NBC reported.
Pistorius, a double-amputee and Olympic sprinter, shot Steenkamp four times through a locked bathroom door on Feb. 14, 2013. Pistorius’ legal team had argued that Pistorius mistook her for an intruder and did not intend to kill her.
In 2014, a High Court judge declared Pistorius guilty of manslaughter and sentenced him to five years in jail. The prosecution appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court of Appeals, who issued today’s decision.
Leach said the previous court judgment “seemingly ignored” elements of the ballistics evidence and that the judgment was “fundamentally flawed.”
Pistorius’ team could appeal the decision to the country’s Constitutional Court, but this is unlikely, criminal lawyer Johann Engelbrecht told the Associated Press. South Africa’s North Gauteng High Court, which tried Pistorius last year, will handle sentencing.
A spokesman for Pistorius stated that the team is considering all his legal options.