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Judge: Oscar Pistorius ‘negligent’ but not guilty of murder

JOHANNESBURG — A judge found South African athlete Oscar Pistorius not

guilty of premeditated murder Thursday in the shooting death of his

girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, but said the defendant had been

“negligent,” raising the prospect of a culpable homicide, or

manslaughter, conviction.

Judge Thokozile Masipa, after reading a lengthy explanation of the

evidence and charges, recessed the court until Friday without

rendering a final verdict.

Oscar Pistorius sits in the Pretoria High Court on Sept. 11 in

Pretoria, South Africa.

But she did tell the court that she found that Pistorius “acted too

hastily and used excessive force” when he fired four times into the

door of a toilet stall in his apartment, killing Steenkamp.

“It is it is clear that his conduct was negligent,” she said.

The Olympic and Paralympic athlete, known as the Blade Runner for his

use of specially designed prosthetic legs, was on trial for the

shooting death of his 29-year-old girlfriend on Valentine’s Day in

2013.

Prosecutors accused Pistorius of intentionally killing her by firing

through the door of a toilet stall where, they alleged, she had taken

refuge following an argument.

Pistorius claimed he thought Steenkamp was in bed and that he

accidentally shot her through the bathroom door, mistakenly believing

there was an intruder in his home.

The judge earlier said state prosecutors failed to prove that

Pistorius is guilty of either premeditated murder or second-degree

murder, thus ruling out those charges.

Seated in the dock, the 27-year-old Pistorius frequently sobbed and

held his head in his hands as the judge ruled on the most serious

charges.

But after a lunch break, the judge came back to criticize Pistorius

for his conduct the night of the killing.

A reasonable person, she said, “would have foreseen if he fired shots

at the door, the person inside the toilet might be struck and die as a

result.”

If he had felt threatened by an intruder, the judge said, “all the

accused had to do was to pick up his cell phone to call security or

the police. He could have run to the balcony and screamed in the same

way he had screamed after the incident.”

Pistorius, she said, “had reasonable time to reflect, to think and to

conduct himself reasonably.”

The defendant also faces a verdict on two charges relating to the

discharge of a firearm in a public place and one charge of illegal

possession of ammunition.Masipa, not a jury, decided the verdict in

line with South African legal custom.

If Pistorius had been found guilty of premeditated murder he could

have received 25 years in jail. A conviction of culpable homicide

carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence but no minimum, according to

the BBC.

The judge, in rendering her verdict, called Pistorius “evasive” on the

stand and a “very poor witness” who often contradicted himself, but

said the state had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“During his evidence, he seemed composed and logical… [but] under

cross examination he lost his composure…[and it seemed] the accused

was suffering from enormous emotional stress and was traumatized by

reliving the incident,” she said.

“The accused therefore cannot be found guilty of murder dolus

eventualis [legal intent] … that however is not the end of the

matter as culpable homicide is a competent verdict,” said Masipa.

Kofi Oppong Kyekyeku

I am a Ghanaian Broadcast Journalist/Writer who has an interest in General News, Sports, Entertainment, Health, Lifestyle and many more.

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