PRETORIA: “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius was found not guilty of the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Thursday as a South African judge dismissed the most serious charges against him.
“The state clearly has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder,” Thokozile Masipa said, before dealing with the lesser charge of culpable homicide—also known as manslaughter.
“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.
“Clearly he did not objectively foresee this as a possibility, that he would kill the person behind the door,” she said as she later dismissed the lesser charge of common murder.
The 27-year-old sat in the dock bowed and burying his head in his hands after the finding was made.
Pistorius was charged with one count of murder and three firearms offences over the killing on Valentine’s Day 2013.
He could still be found guilty of culpable homicide, carrying anything from a suspended sentence to a lengthy prison stretch, or he could be acquitted.
A charge of premeditated murder would have meant a life sentence in South Africa’s notoriously brutal jails.
Pistorius had grimaced and sniffled as he watched Masipa call Pretoria’s High Court to order and read her verdict.
Both defense and prosecution agree Pistorius killed the law graduate and model when he fired four shots through a locked toilet door in his upmarket Pretoria home.
But the sprinter said he thought he was shooting at an intruder while Steenkamp was safely in bed.
The prosecution says he killed her in a fit of rage after an argument.
Masipa moved quickly through her judgement, rejecting state evidence that pointed to an argument between the couple.
“Neither the evidence of the loving relationship or a relationship turned sour can assist this court to determine whether the accused had the requisite intention to kill the deceased,” she said.
The judge also reviewed evidence by neighbors who testified of hearing shots and screams, saying many “had their facts wrong.”
She said huge media coverage of the case could have affected some witnesses.
“I am of the view that they failed to separate what they knew personally or what they heard from other people or what they gathered from the media,” she said.
But Masipa also said Pistorius himself was “evasive” on the stand, and that his evidence showed “a number of defenses, or apparent defenses.”
“The accused was a very poor witness,” she said.