Judge: Pistorius can’t be found guilty of murder
Published 10:43 am Thursday, September 11, 2014
PRETORIA, South Africa — The judge in Oscar Pistorius’ trial ruled out a murder conviction for the double-amputee Olympian Thursday in the shooting death of his girlfriend but said he was negligent, raising the possibility he’ll be convicted of culpable homicide.
The verdict in the case that has riveted much of South Africa and the world is expected on Friday when Judge Thokozile Masipa reconvenes the judgment phase, climaxing the trial that began in March.
If Pistorius is acquitted of murder, he could still be sent to jail for a maximum of 15 years if convicted of culpable homicide or negligent killing, although five years in prison is a guideline when a firearm is used.
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The red-robed Masipa, sitting in the dais and looking down at Pistorius and the packed courtroom, said she felt Pistorius acted negligently when he fired four times through a toilet door in his home in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day last year. In a moment of high-drama, Masipa then stopped reading out her verdict in the six-month-long trial and adjourned until Friday.
Because there is no trial by jury in South Africa, Masipa is expected to explain exactly why she and her two legal aides came to the decision they have before the judge issues the verdict.
“I am of the view that the accused acted too hastily and with excessive force,” Masipa said of Pistorius’ actions on the fatal night.
She said the prosecution had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Pistorius committed premeditated murder. She also ruled out a lesser murder charge. As she indicated that Pistorius would likely be cleared of murder, Pistorius began sobbing quietly on the wooden bench, his shoulders shaking.
The world-famous athlete has acknowledged firing the shots through the toilet door in his home, hitting Steenkamp in the head, arm and hip area with hollow-point bullets from his 9 mm pistol. He said he mistook her for an intruder and denied murder, but the judge said Pistorius still could have taken other action, like calling the police or security at his housing estate.