The verdict, just in, for former Olympic star Oscar Pistorius, has left the world astounded. From the US to the UK, from Africa to South Korea, speculation surrounds yet another bizarre tribulation for the acclaimed sprinter. It appears that this athlete’s life (like the lives of so many athletes) has been riddled with unfortunate circumstances.
Pistorius, an amputee, was deemed the fastest man on no legs when he swept the competition in race after race, donning a set of prosthetic legs that critics would later call an unfair edge over the competition. Controversy over the legless runner raged on both sides, with comedian Kat Williams and other outspoken celebrities quickly coming to his defense. In May of 2008, Oscar Pistorius was named one of the top 100 most influential people by Time Magazine. The legless runner quickly became an international hero — living proof that one individual can challenge the odds and win. Pistorius took home a multitude of bronze, gold and silver medals. Then on February 14th of 2013, his heroic status was challenged yet again, this time with an even darker controversy in the form of a murder accusation.
The Case of Reeva Steenkamp’s Murder
There is no question as to whether the world’s beloved Oscar Pistorius fatally shot his then girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He immediately admitted to committing the crime. His side, however, describes a shattering incident based on a misunderstanding. Throughout his trial, Pistorius has maintained the stance that he fired his weapon under the illusion that his girlfriend was an intruder. No other justifiable reason was referenced or uncovered, yet the athlete was sentenced anyway.
Why Pistorius was Found Guilty and Sentenced to Five Years of Incarceration
A psychological evaluator claimed that while Pistorius did suffer from an anxiety disorder, his particular disorder didn’t alleviate his culpability. This is often the case with psychiatric patients. In fact, mental illness runs rampant in prisons, an issue that has been addressed by popular publications like the New York Times and PBS. Criminal responsibility issues often arise in cases of mental instability.
Pistorius’s Sentence to be Carried out in South Africa’s Notorious Pretoria Central Prison
Friends and family are already voicing opinions regarding the athlete’s safety in what some are referring to as unsavory prison conditions. Many claim that five years spent in the infamous South Africa prison could pose a myriad of unimaginable threats such as rape, AIDS, harassment and gang violence. Will Pistorius be the likely target of possible future prison assaults? More importantly, would he have been safer in an American prison? That seems to be the underlying question reluctant loved ones are attempting to ask after all. Let’s review the facts and find out.
Crimes and Punishments — South Africa vs. the US
In South Africa, Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide, reckless endangerment and one firearm charge. His sentence for the above mentioned crimes was a maximum of five years. Had Pistorius been found guilty of the same exact crimes in the state of Florida in the US, his maximum sentencing would have been significantly longer. Culpable homicide, which is most comparable to involuntary manslaughter, sometimes referred to as culpable negligence, is an act that is considered a felony. When a culpable negligence incident involves a firearm, prison minimums in the 10-25 year range are often implemented. Under these standards, the potential for Mr. Pistorius to spend a significantly longer time in a prison cell is definitely evident. In the United States, would Pistorius, if convicted of the same charges, be locked up amongst AIDS patients, violent offenders, gang members and the likes? Absolutely.
The Question of Culpability
Accidents are called accidents for a reason. The reason is the fact that they are not intentional acts. Under US law, defendants can exercise their right to use the Mistake defense in a situation such as this, possibly evading prison altogether. This is why the criminal defense system is such an important part of American justice.
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