PARALYMPIC champion Oscar Pistorius will discover today whether he is guilty of manslaughter after Judge Thokozile Masipa yesterday cleared the South African of murder.
Judge Masipa declared prosecutors had failed to prove that Pistorius had deliberately intended to kill his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year but concluded the 27-year-old had acted in haste and with negligence.
The Olympic and Paralympic sprinter has vehemently protested his innocence during 41 days of trial, insisting he mistook his partner’s presence in the toilet of his home in Pretoria for that of an intruder during the early hours of 14 February 2013.
Pistorius argued that he believed Ms Steenkamp – a 29-year-old law graduate and model – to still be in the bedroom, with Judge Masipa concluding that evidence suggesting premeditated murder was purely circumstantial.
“The state has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder,” said Judge Masipa.
“There are just not enough facts to support such a finding.
“How could the accused reasonably have foreseen that the shot he fired would kill the deceased? Clearly he did not subjectively foresee this as a possibility, that he would kill the person behind the door, let alone the deceased as he thought she was in the bedroom at the time.”
Pistorius, who won Paralympic gold at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, pleaded not guilty to all the charges he faced, which also included two of illegally discharging a firearm in public and one involving the illegal possession of ammunition.
After delivering her murder verdict Judge Masipa stopped short of giving her decision on manslaughter, which is known as culpable homicide in South Africa and carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, before adjourning for the day.
“The accused knew there was a person behind the toilet door, he chose to use a firearm,” she said.
“Would a reasonable person in the same circumstances as the accused have foreseen the possibility that if he fired four shots whoever was behind the toilet might be struck and die as a result?
“I am of the view that the accused acted too hastily and used excessive force. In the circumstances, it is clear that his conduct was negligent.”
South Africa has no jury system with Judge Masipa deciding on the verdicts with the help of two assessors, while Pistorius is set to learn his fate when court proceedings resume today.