The South African courts will have one judge deciding the fate of athlete Oscar Pistorius for killing his girlfriend, a trial which has garnished worldwide attention.
In South Africa, murder is defined as the unlawful, intentional killing of another person, that is also pre-meditated and it carries a life-long prison sentence, says Anjali Dooley, a criminal defense lawyer in St. Louis, Missouri. To contrast, culpable homicide is the unlawful, negligent killing of a person and it's under the reasonable persons standard.
From the testimony she's read, Dooley says the prosecutor in the case has proved negligence and recklessness in Oscar's past behavior and has poked holes in the defense case regarding self-defense. If it's regular self-defense, it's allowed when it's a direct attack on one's life or someone else on your property, where the attack is actually happening or is imminent. "He can't use regular self-defense, it won't even fly," says Dooley.
The other option the defense has is putative self-defense, which is when an individual feels his life is in danger and he's using reasonable means to avert an attack on himself, so it's Oscar's state of mind in this case, says Dooley.
Dooley thinks the defense has a big burden to overcome and they have 17 witnesses. Ultimately, it's up to the judge who needs to believe he acted reasonably. In her opinion, Dooley thinks Oscar will probably get culpable homicide, which carries no minimum sentencing, as it's up to the judge to decide.
Anjali Dooley is an attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. For more information on her, click here. She spoke with The Legal Broadcast Network, providing online, on-demand, legal video content. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.