Oscar Cleared Of Murder But …

Oscar Pistorius

Story provided courtesy of BBC

The judge in the Oscar Pistorius trial has ruled out all murder charges, but says he may still be guilty of pculpable homicide (manslaughter).

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.

The South African Olympic sprinter denies murdering Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, saying he thought there was an intruder.

Mr 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.

The 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”.

The 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.”

The judge added that the accused believed his life was in danger and therefore could not be found guilty of a lesser charge of murder.

Judge: “He did not subjectively foresee as a possibility that he would kill the person behind the door, let alone the deceased, as he thought she was in the bedroom”
“How could the accused reasonably have foreseen that the shot he fired would kill the deceased?” she said.

“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.”

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 sentence.

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.

Oscar Pistorius verdict by various Eye Witness In Court Through Twitter, minute by minute accounts

Key Points

  • The judge at Oscar Pistorius’ trial has ruled out murder
  • She could find him guilty of culpable homicide, for which he would face a long jail term
  • The South African athlete denies intentionally killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
  • The double-amputee says he thought there was an intruder on Valentine’s Day 2013
  • He also faces charges of firing a gun in public and illegally possessing ammunition
    1. Aislinn Laing, southern Africa Correspondent for the UK’s Daily Telegraph

      tweets: Gerrie Nel enters court looking stoney-faced.He then disappears, along with Barry Roux.Possible conflab in the judge’s chambers? #OscarTrial


      Annika Larsen with South Africa’s eNCA broadcaster

      tweets: Counsel gone to chambers. Gerrie Nel looks a bit fed up #OscarPistorius


      Andrew Harding Africa correspondent

      tweets: Prosecution and defence lawyers called to Judge’s chambers… a question of timings, or of substance, or something else?

    4. 13:00:

      The judge’s papers have now been brought into the courtroom.

    5. 13:00:

      Throughout the trial, Judge Masipa’s quiet demeanour – in stark contrast to the tears, theatrics and occasional snarls from the white males who have dominated the courtroom floor – has earned her growing respect and admiration, the BBC’s Andrew Harding says in his blog.

    6. 12:59:

      You can explore the crime scene herewith the different versions of events put forward in court.

      1. Barry Bateman, senior reporter at Eyewitness News

        tweets: OscarTrial the public gallery has filled up again, but there is no sign of the prosecution team. BB


        Andrew Harding Africa correspondent

        tweets: No sign of Judge returning… an unexpected, unexplained delay in proceedings. #OscarPistorius


        Audrey Brown BBC Africa

        tweets: Lest we forget.: there are weapons and ammunition charges with heavy sentences as well #OscarVerdict

      4. 12:47:

        To recap: Judge Thokozile Masipa said a short while ago in court that Oscar Pistorius cannot be found guilty of murder.

      5. 12:41:

        The verdict of culpable homicide could lead to a sentence of less than 10 years, lawyer Michael Motsoeneng says.

      6. 12:38:

        Culpable homicide involves falling short of the standards of a reasonable person, lawyer Michael Motsoeneng adds. The issue is: Whether he acted as a diligent person who exercises reasonable care. “Did he act as a reasonable person would?”

      7. 12:36:

        Reeva Steenkamp’s mother June Steenkamp and uncle Michael Steenkamp at the court.

        1. 12:36:

          Michael Motsoeneng, a lawyer in South Africa, explains the different verdicts to the BBC: “Murder requires an intention. With culpable homicide, or manslaughter, the requirement is negligence. You may not have intended to kill somebody, but the way you conducted yourself was negligent.”


          Pumza Fihlani, Pretoria High Court BBC News

          tweets: Outside court members of the ruling ANC’s woman’s league are staging a protest in support of Reeva. They are singing “what have we done?

        3. 12:30:

          Oscar Pistorius’ family at the court earlier today.

          1. 12:36:

            Michael Motsoeneng, a lawyer in South Africa, explains the different verdicts to the BBC: “Murder requires an intention. With culpable homicide, or manslaughter, the requirement is negligence. You may not have intended to kill somebody, but the way you conducted yourself was negligent.”

            1. Alex Crawford, Sky News, South Africa

              tweets: #PistoriusTrial OP gives his uncle Arnold huge, long hug. Palpable relief amongst the family but still v tense all round


              Karin Giannone BBC News

              Tweets: Whatever happens in court this afternoon, #OscarPistorius will not be leaving court as a convicted murderer.

            3. 12:23:

              Who is Oscar Pistorius? BBC News has compiled a video report looking at the key events in the Olympic athlete’s life – in 60 seconds.


              Tyrone Maseko, attorney in South Africa

              tweets: A few surprises in the judgment so far #OscarTrial (the acceptance of OP’s stated defence)

            5. 12:18:

              Carl Pistorius, the athlete’s brother, has been seated near the front of the court as he is in a wheelchair because of injuries suffered in a recent car crash.

              1. Mandy Wiener, senior reporter at South Africa’s Eyewitness New

                tweets: #OscarTrial The media seem shellshocked by what has just happened. We expected Masipa to keep her cards close until the end.

              2. 11:58:

                Reeva Steenkamp was 29 years old when she was killed. The BBC’s Pumza Fihlani has spoken to her friend, who described Ms Steenkamp as private person with a “small-town girl” attitude.

                Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-29143544



  1. Gripping stuff. Admirable Judge. 100% correct on premeditated murder – no evidence to convict “beyond a reasonable doubt” though he and we know he planned the execution of his girlfriend! But should have been found guilty of murder consequential to his actions. Nevertheless, he will be found guilty of culpable homicide tomorrow.

    I hope my Pan-Africanist friend in The Gambia will see this excellent African Judge as a potential Chief Justice of The Gambia (as opposed to the Pakistani one we currently have).

  2. You are not a friend of The Gambia. Why don’t you apply for a job so people know what you want and your true colours.

  3. Yep, Guilty of Culpable Homicide.
    But lots of psychology and racial drama at play here. The white middle-class chose a Black Judge … “to lynch Pistorious for them”.
    Now, the Black judge used to be a Social Worker and a Court Journalist. She knows how the system works. 20 years since White Rule disappeared and everything remains white – she thinks. Just look in my court room today! In a nation with 90% Black, she is only one of 2 Black High Court Judges!! South Africa is the murder and rape capital of the world. So why do they think they can manipulate me to hang Pistorious? Just because he shot dead his WHITE bimbo? Oh, come on! White and Black South Africans rape, beat and kill their women and their servants all the time and no one bats an eyelid! That is what she thought – and decided to put two fingers up to the HYPOCRITICAL White Liberal World! Legally she is wrong – and should have found him guilty of the lesser unpremeditated murder charge – and the Appeal Court will likely over-rule her should the state appeal. But she has made her point: cut out the hypocrisy, dozens of black women and black children are killed and raped in our wonderful South Africa and you big-hearted white liberals hardly give it a thought. Reminds me of a book I used to teach for GCSE English – To Kill A Mocking Bird – though in reverse because the man in the dock was black and the Judge white! Have a nice day – and learn to think out of the box with Professor His Rastafari Highness HRH Hail Haile Halake (I’ll add all the other titles later)!