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Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
AP/Press Association Images
# South Africa
Oscar Pistorius found not guilty of both premeditated murder and murder
But the 27-year-old athlete could still be guilty of culpable homicide.

THE JUDGE HANDING down the verdict in Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial has rejected the charges of premeditated murder and murder, stating the prosecution has not proven either beyond any reasonable doubt.

Judge Thokozile Masipa dismissed the most serious charges laid against the athlete in South Africa this morning but said “that is not the end of the matter”.

The court adjourned for the day before final verdicts on culpable homicide and firearms charges were delivered.

Proceedings will resume again from 8.30am tomorrow.

Masipa examined the possibility of a conviction of ‘culpable homicide’, one she described as a “competent verdict” during today’s hearing.

Culpable homicide is also known as manslaughter. If found guilty of culpable homicide he could receive anything from a non-custodial sentence to 15 years in prison .There is also still a possibility that he could be acquitted of all charges in relation to Steenkamp’s death.

The judge used the ‘reasonable man’ test when discussing manslaughter, asking whether a reasonable person would conduct themselves in a similar manner to Pistorius if faced with the same set of circumstances.

She found that there were “other options available” to him, rather than going to the bathroom with a loaded gun on the night Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead in February 2013.

The explanation given by the defence during the trial was “just that”, she said, “an explanation.

It does not excuse [his] conduct.

“The accused knew there was someone behind the door and he chose to use a firearm – a lethal weapon he was competent in using as he had undergone some training,” she continued, before ruling that she found he acted “too hastily and used excessive force”.

“It is clear that his conduct was negligent,” Masipa concluded before wrapping up proceedings to groans from the public benches, filled with people who wanted a verdict today.

There is no jury system in South Africa so decisions are made by the judge and her two assessors.

Premeditated murder

“Viewed in its totality the evidence failed to establish that the accused had the requisite intention to kill the deceased let alone with premeditation,” said Masipa earlier.

Dismissing any possibility of a murder conviction, she later added: “Clearly he did not objectively foresee this as a possibility, that he would kill the person behind the door.

Reading a summary of the trial evidence, Masipa earlier criticised Pistorius for being a ‘very poor and evasive witness’. She rejected the defence’s explanation that this was because he was stressed and under distress.

However, she said that the State had failed to establish proof of an intention by the Olympian to kill his model girlfriend on Valentine’s Day last year.

The judge took the court through technical legal detail about definitions of murder with indirect intent (doelus eventualis) and error in persona (killing wrong person).

The 27-year-old accused sat in the dock, initially passive and still but he soon began sniffling and grimacing as she read her summary.

Unreliable witnesses

It was thought that Masipa could take until Monday to get through her full judgement but she has said she will not “rehash” every piece of evidence heard during the trial, explaining that it would not be “fruitful”.

The judge also said that much of the witness testimony is “unreliable” as human beings are “fallible” and rely on memories that “fade over time”.

She believes that the media attention and public interest in the case since the 30-year-old model was shot dead influenced the evidence given.

She said she will only rely on testimony that is backed up with evidence.

As well as ruling the memories of witnesses unreliable, she dismissed the WhatsApp messages that were entered into the evidence of the court. She said nothing should be inferred from the messages submitted from either side.

She noted that relationships are dynamic and unpredictable and human beings fickle.

Masipa began the proceedings by reading out the four charges against Pistorius – one count of murder and three in relation to firearms.

She noted that the sprinter does not deny firing the four shots which killed Reeva Steenkamp.

Before adjourning for a short tea break, the judge questioned whether Pistorius knew his actions could result in somebody’s death. She notes that he said he didn’t intend to kill anybody but detailed the number of confused statements in made on the matter.

She also cited the height of the bullets fired, inferring that none were potential warning shots.

The court is packed today with the media, witnesses, family and members of the public. Pistorius’s brother Carl is also in attendance in a wheelchair following a car crash during which he was seriously injured.

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