Even though a trial court convicted Oscar Pistorius of a lesser charge
of culpable homicide, in the February 2013 shooting death of his girlfriend
Reeva Steenkamp, a South African appeals court reversed the trial judge
and convicted Pistorius of a more serious
The appeals court sharply criticized Pistorius for shooting four times
through a closed door, without even firing a warning shot, as it was inevitable
that he would kill whoever was on the other side.
Doesn't This Constitute Double Jeopardy?
- Under South African law, because the trial court did not completely acquit
Pistorius, it was permissible for the appeals court to give the murder
charge a second look.
- In the United States, though, once a jury finds a defendant guilty of a
lesser included offense, as occurred with Pistorius, the more serious
charges are off the table.
- If a Defendant receives a sentence, appeals that sentence, and wins on
appeal, they cannot get a harsher sentence if they are convicted again.
Why Couldn't This Happen in the United States?
In the United States, when someone is convicted, they have the automatic
right to appeal their conviction to a higher court.
Appeals involve questions of law, not questions of fact. In other words,
legal issues such as whether an illegal search was conducted or whether
a defendant’s statement was voluntary can be argued on appeal, but
whether or not evidence was sufficient to warrant a conviction is virtually
never an issue. Appeals courts almost always defer to the trial judge
or jury as to their interpretation of the facts that were presented at
trial, and will not impose their own judgment or assessment of them.
Murder Charges Should Not Be Taken Lightly
Whether the charge is murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide, the
penalties upon conviction are severe. Going to trial without one of Phoenix’s
most experienced and
aggressive criminal defense attorneys can make the difference between spending decades in prison and having
Jason Lamm has successfully defended numerous clients charged with murder and has
both the courtroom experience and technical know-how to get justice for
If you or someone you love is charged with murder or any type of homicide
offense, call us at (602) 663-9100 for a
confidential consultation. The time to begin your defense is now.