Judge Finds Oscar Pistorius Guilty Of Manslaughter

OscarREUTERS/Phill MagakoeOlympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius during judgment at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Thursday.

Star runner Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of culpable homicide – manslaughter in Australian terms – a South African judge ruled on Friday. The sentencing will come at a later date.

Pistorius, 27, was found not guilty of premeditated murder on Thursday. He was also cleared of common law murder.

Pistorius was accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day of last year. Pistorius said he mistook her for a burglar, but prosecutors argued he shot Steenkamp intentionally as the result of an argument.

Before adjourning court on Thursday, Masipa said that Pistorius “acted too hastily and used excessive force” and that “his conduct was negligent.”

Masipa also criticised Pistorius for not calling security if he thought he heard an intruder in his home.

“Calling security … and running to the balcony to scream for help and to attract attention probably would have taken as much time, if not less, as it took to go to the bathroom and to discharge those four shots,” she said.

Pistorius’ defence tried to justify his actions by detailing the paranoid environment he grew up in — his mother reportedly slept with a firearm under her pillow — but Masipa pointed out that many other South Africans have been victims of crime and do not act the way Pistorius did.

“I believe the conduct of the accused might be better understood when looking at his background, however, the explanation of the conduct of the accused it just that. An explanation,” she said. “It does not excuse the conduct of the accused.”

Pistorius was facing charges of premeditated murder, firing a gun in a public space, and illegally possessing ammunition. His trial spanned about six months, and 37 witnesses testified.

During the trial, Pistorius said he fired four shots through a locked bathroom door at his Pretoria home because he thought Steenkamp was an intruder. He said he woke up and heard a noise in the bathroom, remembered there were no bars on the bathroom windows, and thought contractors working on the property had left ladders outside. He said he assumed Steenkamp was still in bed next to him.

But neighbours who testified at the trial said they heard arguing and a woman screaming at Pistorius’ house the night Steenkamp died. And in a text conversation just weeks before she died, Steenkamp told Pistorius that she’s “scared of [him] sometimes.”

The burden was on the prosecution was to prove that Pistorius meant to kill Steenkamp. As The Independent points out, prosecutors had to show that their version of events “is the only version of events that can possibly be true.”

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