On Valentine’s Day of 2013, South African Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius was at home when he thought he heard someone breaking into the bathroom of his home. He grabbed his gun and went to investigate.
After shooting what he thought was an intruder four times through the bathroom door, then 27-year-old Pistorius opened it to discover his model girlfriend, 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp, dead from the gunshot wounds.
Although Pistorius admitted to the crime, he was sentenced last year to five years in prison on the charge of culpable homicide — the South African equivalent of manslaughter.
The athlete, who was a double amputee and used prosthetic limbs to compete worldwide, served just 364 days in jail before being released on house arrest in October.
But now prosecutors allege that Pistorius should have been convicted of murder, not the manslaughter sentence handed down in 2014.
And his attorney is terrified, if news reports out of South Africa are anything to go by.
South African news site News24 reported that Barry Roux, Pistorius’s defense attorney, was accidentally recorded muttering, “I am going to lose,” according to the New York Post. The statement was made to a state prosecutor in Afrikaans, one of 11 official languages in South Africa and was captured by media microphones after the appeals hearing.
In court, Roux claimed that the shooting couldn’t be separated from the fact that Pistorius is an amputee. The athlete had been born with a condition called fibular hemimelia, which forced his legs to be amputated when he was just 11 months old.
“It’s unfair to see this through the prism of someone standing there on two legs,” Roux told the court in his closing remarks.
But Judge Eric Leach, who oversaw the appeal, said that this was no excuse for the crime committed.
“There was no place to hide in there,” Leach said, referring to the bathroom in Pistorius’s home. “If you put four shots through that door you must surely see you will shoot someone.”
Prosecutors may also want to prove some kind of abuse, as the initial sentencing had outraged the African National Congress’ Women’s League. Researchers estimate that 50% of all women will experience some form of physical violence in an intimate relationship during their lifetimes.
If the prosecutors win the appeal and Roux’s prediction comes true, Pistorius will most likely wind up back in prison.