Legal Reasoning Behind Oscar Pistorius Verdict
Thokozile Masipa
  • The Times

    16 September 2014


    Legal Reasoning Behind Oscar Pistorius Verdict

    The ruling handed down in the Oscar Pistorius case by Judge Thokozile Masipa last week has put the idea of judicial error in the spotlight. The legal community in South Africa are divided on the reasoning that Masipa made on the facts and on the law. It was felt that Judge's ruling shocked legal experts, academics. The consensus among the legal community was that Oscar Pistorius was guilty of murder and that this judgment may create a legal precedent. It is felt that it could open the door to systematic abuse of the legal system by people who shoot their partners and claim self-defence. The prevailing reaction on social and other media was to slam the judgment. The Latin phrase dolus eventualis has now made its way into popular parlance. The concept of "DOLUS", which is required in a murder case has created confusion. Dolus is a very specific kind of intent - it is intention to carry out a certain act, coupled with the knowledge that such an act is wrongful. The judge has essentially has found that, although Oscar may very well have intended to kill the person behind the door (regardless of who he thought it may have been), he believed that he was justified in doing so on the basis that he feared being attacked. Dolus Eventualis refers to where a perpetrator foresees indirect consequences as a possibility. Dolus eventualis has two components “a cognitive component, foresight of the possibility of harm, and a conative (or volitional) component, most often expressed as recklessness whether the harm will result.” In the case of the Oscar Pistorius case, the judge felt that the State failed to prove this “actual reconciliation” beyond a reasonable doubt. Some legal experts note that Pistorius “should have foreseen” that opening fire at the “intruder” would lead to the intruder’s death. This is considered negligence not intention .According to the legal dictionary Intent can occur in three forms: dolus directus, dolus indirectus and dolus eventualis. "Intent in the form of dolus eventualis or legal intention, which is present when the perpetrator objectively foresees the possibility of his act causing death and persists regardless of the consequences, suffices to find someone guilty of murder. "Dolus directus, on the other hand, known as intention in its ordinary grammatical sense, is present when the accused’s aim and object is to bring about the unlawful consequence, even should the chance of its resulting be small." The South African Court of Appeal held that mens rea in the form of dolus eventualis is an elastic concept. It can range from bordering on negligence (culpa) on the one hand to dolus directus on the other. However, the test always remains whether the accused person subjectively foresaw the possibility of the death of the deceased and associated himself therewith.




  • [a-z]udge Masipa got it wrong
  • |
  • Masipa’s Pistorius ruling puts judicial error in the spotlight
  • |
  • Oscar Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide
  • |
  • JUDGE MASIPA GOT IT RIGHT: Oscar Pistorius and the intention to kill
  • |
  • Oscar - why Judge Masipa was correct
  • |
  • Meaning of Dolus Directus
  • |
  • World Have Your Say Podcast - Your questions on the Pistorius verdict - Legal experts in South Africa answer your questions on the trial of Oscar Pistorius, who has been found guilty of the culpable homicide of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
  • Related Zapiro Cartoons

  • 140914st - The VERDICT in Oscar Pistorius Trial
  • Related cartoons from other cartoonists

  • Dr Jack & Curtis on 16 Sep 2014 in Eyewitness News via
  • |
  • Mark Wigget on 15 Sep 2014 in The Herald via
  • |
  • Findlay on 14 Sep 2014 in Sondag Son via

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.