The judge in the Oscar Pistorius trial has ruled out all murder
charges, but says he may still be guilty of culpable homicide
Judge Thokozile Masipa said the prosecution had
failed to prove the Olympic athlete killed his girlfriend deliberately
in the toilet after a row, prompting tears from Mr Pistorius.
He cannot have foreseen killing whoever was behind the toilet door, she said.
She added he was an evasive witness but this did not mean he was guilty.
South African Olympic sprinter denies murdering Reeva Steenkamp on
Valentine’s Day last year, saying he thought there was an intruder.
Pistorius, 27, has pleaded not guilty to all the charges he faces,
including two counts of shooting a firearm in public and the illegal
possession of ammunition.
‘Facts wrong’ Judge Masipa began by
detailing the charges against the athlete and repeating extracts of his
testimony, reading in a slow, measured way.
She then moved on to a summary of the trial.
A tense-looking Mr Pistorius looked on from the dock, and wept several times during the proceedings.
judge questioned the reliability of several witnesses who apparently
heard screams and gunshots at the time of the incident, saying most of
those who said they had heard the incident had “got facts wrong.”
prosecution had used these witnesses to try to prove that Mr Pistorius
had killed Ms Steenkamp with premeditation after an argument.
Later in her judgement, Judge Masipa concluded that the prosecution had failed in this.
“The state has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder,” she said.
“There are just not enough facts to support such a finding.”
judge added that the accused believed his life was in danger and
therefore could not be found guilty of a lesser charge of murder.
“How could the accused reasonably have foreseen that the shot he fired would kill the deceased?” she said.
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.”
But Judge Masipa then
adjourned for lunch without ruling out culpable homicide, which suggests
negligence without intention to kill and which could still mean a jail
The BBC’s Andrew Harding says the court is witnessing
Judge Masipa’s logic and style-gentle, tolerant of error from witnesses,
but razor sharp.
Correspondents say the judge appeared to be
moving much more quickly than expected through the evidence, in a
process which had been expected take more than a few hours or even days.