Former Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide on Friday for shooting and killing his girlfriend in 2013.
Judge Thokozile Masipa characterised Pistorius as an unreliable witness but said there weren’t enough facts to support a verdict of premeditated murder. So she settled for the lesser charge of culpable homicide.
In South Africa, culpable homicide is the equivalent of manslaughter. In this case, it means that Pistorius did not intend to kill his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp but that his actions were negligent.
Culpable homicide “can be defined as killing someone but without direct intent either through recklessness or negligence,” according to The Telegraph.
Masipa said there was a reasonable possibility that Pistorius really did think Steenkamp was an intruder when he fired four shots through a locked bathroom door the night he killed her.
But she also said he “acted too hastily and used excessive force,” and that he could have avoided shooting the supposed intruder in the bathroom by calling security or shouting for help.
To reach a conviction of culpable homicide, a judge has to decide whether the accused’s actions fit what a “reasonable” person would do under the same circumstances.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 13, according to The New York Times.
Masipa will decide Pistorius’ sentence based on “the weight of evidence and circumstances surrounding the incident,” a veteran defence lawyer told ABC News. The maximum sentence for culpable homicide is 15 years. There is no minimum sentence.
Pistorius could even get off without any prison time at all, as some culpable homicide cases are punished with community service and fines. Pistorius’ mental state could play into his sentence if his defence team can successfully argue he has a fragile mental state and needs continued treatment for his depression to prevent him from becoming suicidal, ABC News notes. The fact that he’s a double amputee might also be taken into consideration.
Contrary to Pistorius’ version of events, prosecutors argued he shot Steenkamp intentionally as the result of an argument.
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