The judge in Oscar Pistorius’s trial for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp said the state failed to prove that he was guilty of murder on Valentine’s Day last year.
Judge Thokozile Masipa said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that Pistorius, 27, was guilty either of premeditated murder or second-degree murder. Masipa will rule on culpable homicide when the court returns from adjournment later today.
“Culpable homicide is a competent verdict,” she said.
Pistorius cried on the shoulders of his sister Aimee after Masipa adjourned the court. If convicted of culpable homicide, Pistorius could serve as many as 15 years in prison.
Pistorius gave different explanations about why he fired at the door in his bathroom in his Pretoria home, Masipa said. He testified at one point that he fired without thinking and at another that he was shooting at someone he believed was about to attack or kill him. She called him “a very poor witness.”
Masipa rejected the defense’s contention that the shooting was a reflex and the Paralympian lacked cognitive capacity.
Earlier, Masipa, 66, said she discounted the witnesses who testified that they heard a woman scream after the four shots Pistorius fired at a door in his bathroom, saying because of the gravity of her wounds, Steenkamp wouldn’t have been able to shout and shriek. Some of them were also too far away.
“I am of the view that the probability is that some witnesses failed to separate what they knew personally, from what they heard from other people or from what they gathered from the media,” she said.
Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius was the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics. He’s been free on 1 million rand ($91,500) bail since February last year. If found guilty, Pistorius’s bail will be revoked and he will have to submit a new application, according to Ulrich Roux, a director at Johannesburg-based BDK Attorneys.
The charges have derailed the running career of the winner of six Paralympic gold medals and cost Pistorius sponsorship deals with Nike Inc. and Luxottica Group SpA’s Oakley. He sold his home in Pretoria in May.
If the verdict is guilty for culpable homicide, the state and defense teams will request time to compile evidence for sentencing, which will probably be six to 12 weeks after the verdict, Marius du Toit, a criminal-defense lawyer based in Pretoria, said in an interview.
The athlete has also pleaded not guilty to three separate gun-related charges, which include firing a weapon in a restaurant and shooting out of a car. He could face sentences ranging from as many as five years to a fine for each count.
To contact the reporters on this story: Paul Burkhardt in Pretoria at firstname.lastname@example.org; Christopher Spillane in Johannesburg at email@example.com To contact the editors responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org