Oscar Pistorius has been found not guilty of premeditated murder by the South African prosecution service, but may still find himself sentenced for up to 15 years for culpable homicide if the judge hands out the maximum sentence.
The South African had denied intentionally killing his girlfriend Reena Steenkamp in the early hours of the morning on February 14th 2013, claiming that he had heard intruders, and shot through his toilet door in darkness thinking that the burglars were hiding in there, mistakenly shooting his girlfriend four times through the door.
However, judge Thokozile Masipa threw out some of the witness statements, after it was made clear that not all of what was said was entirely correct, and ruled out the screaming some had heard, through the wounds Steenkamp suffered being "incapacitating and would send her unconscious almost instantly".
Despite that, Masipa rejected any claim from the defence that the sprinter, who has competed in both able-bodied and disabled competitions, was not in the right mental state, and therefore Pistorius knew right and wrong, a blow for his defence.
The judge put further doubt on the 27-year-old, saying that "the accused was a very poor witness" and added that the argument claiming Pisotirus had been under extreme stress "does not make sense".
"The accused's performance during examination in chief could not be faulted," said Masipa. "It was only under cross examination that he contradicted himself and visible felt uncomfortable." The judge also debated why the defendant didn't ask where Steenkamp was, as that would the first action many would take if they felt their family was under threat.
Murder ruled out
Despite that, the judge ruled out premeditated murder, saying: "If there is any reasonable belief that his explanation is true, then he is entitled to his acquittal. The onus is on the state to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he is guilty of offence which which he is charged."
It was then up to Masipa to rule out murder; whether the shots through the door, despite killing the deceased, was intentioned to kill an intruder, despite it not being an intruder, explaining: "It follows that the accused's erroneous belief that his life was in danger excludes dolus. The accused therefore cannot be found guilty of murder, dolus eventualis."
The judge did leave the option of manslaughter (culpable homicide) open, pointing out "That however is not the end of the matter, as culpable homicide is a competent verdict."
It seems that the judge may deem Pistorius's actions as negligent, with the trial adjourned until tomorrow, when it is likely we will found out the sentence.
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