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Oscar Pistorius trial, how 3 gun charges could decide the case: Indictment files

Oscar Pistorius Trial Indictment Charges
Oscar Pistorius Trial Indictment Charges

It was the dead of night, literally, when a woman screamed. The scream was followed by an equally deathly silence. Witnesses from 300 m to 600 m away then heard 4 gunshots. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! This was followed, or intertwined with, more blood curdling screams. The kind that made you feel cold. The kind that witnesses felt in their bones was a "family murder". These are events chronicled in the indictment papers against Oscar Pistorius, who faces charges of premeditated murder and gun related charges in the Oscar Pistorius trial for the killing of Reeva Steenkamp. The Globe and Mail reports on June 29 that the Oscar Pistorius trial will resume tomorrow on June 30 as planned, despite recent reports that a delay could occur as a result of the hospitalization of the lead psychiatrist eevaluating Oscar Pistorius in the 30 day recess of the Oscar Pistorius trial.

The Globe and Mail is reporting that the 30 day psychiatric evaluation of the 27-year-old Olympic and Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius has been completed, and that the trial will resume on Monday as planned. This 30 day recess in the trial has come at the request of the State, after witness for the defense Dr. Vorster testified to the possibility that Oscar Pistorius was suffering from an anxiety disorder in the moments that he pulled the trigger 4 times in the dead of night, killing Reeva Steenkamp.

At the end of last week, some concern was raised for the key trial participants when the lead pyschiatrist on the case encountered a heart attack that has left him hospitalized according to ABC News. Dr. Leon Fine, the psychiatrist chosen by the defense, had suffered a heart attack on the Thursday evening just prior to submitting his signature on the report that will be submitted to the Pretoria courts on Monday morning. Nathi Mncube, a spokesperson for the National Prosecutiing Authority has told the Star that this will not impact the case.

"We are expecting the reports to be handed in on Monday and the case should proceed. How we will proceed will be determined by the judge and by the outcome of the reports. But Pistorius has to be at court."

As previously reported by the Toronto Relationships Examiner, the outcome of the psychiatric evaluation, signed or otherwise, has been a unanimous decision. This means that all 4 clinicians assigned to this case unanimously agree on what was going through Oscar's mind in Reeva's last moments on Earth. The Globe and Mail has offered several scenarios as to what will happen next in the Oscar Pistorius trial, suggesting that this may give the defense a bit of a boost.

Kelly Phelps, a senior lecuturer with the University of Cape Town Public Law Department has told the Associated Press that an anxiety disorder could add to his mitigating factors in the case that is against him for premeditated murder. She says that a disorder of this nature could lead Judge Masipa to consider the question, "Is it now more likely that he is telling the truth about what occurred on that night? This is the area of law that is referred to as diminished responsibility."

That is not good news for those hoping for justice for Reeva Steenkamp.

But this possible disorder, or lack thereof, is not the only, or even the most important factor in this case. It can not be disputed that if Oscar Pistorius was not in possession of a gun that evening, Reeeva Steenkamp would still be alive today. This is something that Judge Masipa will also consider, particularly since premeditated murder is not the only charge that Oscar Pistorius is facing.

In fact, if Oscar Pistorius is found guilty of the other charges he is facing, charges that refer to a violation of the Firearms Control Act, he could very well be found guilty of murder as well, despite the diagnosis that will or will not be read in tomorrow's trial testimony.

The indictment papers against Oscar Pistorius make it very clear where the State stands. His unlawful possession and use of a firearm have led to the death of a human being, and he must be held accountable. Oscar Pistorius has pled not guilty to the gun charges that were handed in his indictment. He has also stated as his lead defense that he thought it was an intruder the night of the killing.

The State, and the indictment against Oscar in the Oscar Pistorius trial, find those details irrelevant.

"Some of the State witnesses heard a woman scream, followed by moments of silence, then heard gunshots and then more screaming. The accused said to witnesses on the scene, that he thought she was an intruder. Even then, the accused shot with the direct intention to kill a person. An error in persona will not affect, the intention to kill a human being."

It was August 20, 2013, 6 months after the death of Reeva Steenkamp, when he was handed those charges formally for the first time. In his indictment, he was charged on one count of premeditated murder in violation of Section 51(1) of Act 105 of 1997, and on two counts of charges in violation of the Firearm Control Act.

His first indictment on premeditated murder is what the Oscar Pistorius trial has centered around. But again, if Judge Masipa believes that he is guilty of the gun charges, she may find that the unlawful use and possession of that firearm contributed to his "intention to kill a human being" as listed in his indictment.

In the second charge against Oscar Pistorius in his first indictment we see on the second count, a contravention of Section 90 of the Firearms Control Act no 60 of 2000 wherein,

"The accused did unlawfully have in his possession wit 38 x 38 rounds without being the holder of a.) A license in respect of a firearm capable of discharging that ammunion; b.) A permit to possess the ammunition; a dealer's license, manufacturer's license, gunsmith's license, import, export, or in transit permit or transports permit issued in terms of this Act."

Will it matter then what the diagnosis of the psych evaluation is?

The State will contend that it does not, particularly in light of the fact that since the trial began, Oscar has been charged with two additional firearm offenses. Since the trial, several witnesses have come forward with very damaging evidence against Oscar Pistorius that suggests he is a danger to society when it comes to firearms.

The BBC reported on April 11 of this year, approximately one month after the Oscar Pistorius trial began, that two new gun related charges were filed against Oscar Pistorius alleging that he has a reckless approach to the use of firearms. These charges came after witnesses in the trial testified over two separate incidents involving accidental shootings that happened only weeks before Reeva Steenkamp died.

The first of the additional charges against Oscar Pistorius came as a result of an incident that occurred on 11 January 2013 when he reportedly accidentally fired a gun in a packed restaurant of more than 200 people, and near a table where children were dining according to the BBC. When questioned about that incident, Oscar denied pulling the trigger, a statement to which prosecutor Gerrie Nel replied, "that must have been a miracle", implying that the gun went off 'miraculously' without being fired by a human being.

The second additional count against Oscar according to the BBC involves an incident where he shot a gun out of the roof of a car when he was with his then girlfriend Samantha Taylor and his friend Darren Fresco on the night of 30 November 2012. Darren Fresco was not only present during the restaurant shooting as well, but took the blame for Oscar after Oscar reportedly plead with him to take the blame due to his public image.

In South Africa, each of those counts alone carries a minimum sentence of up to 5 years in prison, according to the BBC.

And then of course there is the gun charge in his original indictment, which to some judges might be enough to convict him on that charge alone. Oscar was in illegal possession of ammunition, which he has pled not guilty to, and attempted to explain all of that away by saying he was holding the bullets for his father.

Henke Pistorius, Oscar's father has not complied with requests to corroborate that statement.

Additionally, before this trial, Oscar did not hide the fact that his relationship with his father was strained. So one can not help but wonder, why would he be hanging onto bullets for him? It is a question that has not escaped the prosecution, despite how much Oscar and the defense team have tried to pretend these charges are irrelevant. To the family of Reeva Steenkamp, if Oscar did not have bullets in his home that evening, she would be alive today.

On this count alone, Oscar faces 15 years in prison.

The Oscar Pistorius trial for the killing of Reeva Steenkamp, and for the charges of public endangerment due to unlawful possession of firearm and ammunition, will resume on June 30.

Will the psychiatric evaluation even matter if he is found guilty of these offenses?

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