South Africa: First Day of Pistorius Ruling Ends With No Decision On Culpable Homicide

The South African judge in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial has ruled out premeditated murder but is due to decide on Friday whether the double-amputee is guilty of culpable homicide.

In the first day of a lengthy verdict on Thursday, Judge Thokozile Masipa cleared Pistorius of premeditated murder for shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. However she adjourned the courtroom before ruling on whether he was guilty of culpable homicide

Culpable homocide – the South African equivalent of manslaughter – carries up to 15 years in prison although five years is a guideline when a firearm is used. Judge Masipa is due to finish her ruling on Friday.

“The state has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder,” she said. “There are just not enough facts to support such a finding.”

Pistorius, who would have faced at least 25 years in prison if convicted, sat sobbing in the dock during the ruling.

The prosecution had argued that Pistorius intended to kill Steenkamp after an argument with the defense maintaining he shot Steenkamp as a result of a tragic accident after mistaking her for an intruder.

Judge Masipa did, however, tell the packed courtroom that he had not acted “reasonably.”

“I am of the view that the accused acted too hastily and used excessive force. It is clear that his conduct was negligent,” she added.

The judge also absolved Pistorius of a lesser murder charge known by the legal term ‘dolus eventualis,’ which makes a person responsible for the foreseeable consequences of his or her actions.

The double-amputee Olympic sprinter fatally shot his 29-year-old girlfriend, law-graduate and model Reeva Steenkamp, through a bathroom door in his home in Pretoria, South Africa, on February 14, 2013.

High-profile trial

The trial has riveted much of South Africa and the world. Spread over six months, the court – which does not rely on a jury in South Africa – heard testimony from around 35 witnesses.

Through his career in sport, Oscar Pistorius – also known as “Blade Runner” – had become a hero to many, a symbol of triumph over adversity. Despite having his legs amputated as a baby, he won a total of six Paralympic gold medals in his career running on prosthetics – ultimately making the semi-finals of the 400 meters at the London Olympics in 2012.

That year, he was described by Time Magazine as “the definition of global inspiration” and ranked among the world’s top 100 influential people.

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