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Pistorius found guilty of culpable homicide

Updated: 2014-09-13 07:44
By Agencies in Pretoria, South Africa (China Daily)

Sentencing phase to begin in October; 'Blade Runner' could be sent to prison

Oscar Pistorius on Friday was found guilty of culpable homicide and faces a potentially lengthy jail term for killing his glamorous girlfriend in a case that shattered the Paralympian champion's glittering career.

Pistorius was acquitted of a more serious charge of murder, but South African Judge Thokozile Masipa said on Friday that he had acted "negligently" in shooting the blonde law graduate once named as one of the world's 100 sexiest women.

The judge agreed to release Pistorius on bail pending sentencing beginning on Oct 13.

His trial heard that in the early hours of Valentine's Day 2013 Pistorius fired four hollow point rounds into a locked toilet door, causing Steenkamp's head to "explode" and "amputating" her arm.

Dismissing a slew of state evidence as inconclusive or irrelevant, Masipa ruled that on the charge of murder, "the accused is found not guilty and is discharged; instead, he is found guilty of culpable homicide".

"A reasonable person," Masipa said, would have foreseen "that whoever was behind the door might be killed," adding that Pistorius did not take steps to avoid that.

The "Blade Runner", so dubbed for the prosthetic legs that powered him to fame, stared straight ahead as the conviction was read, showing little emotion.

But from the gallery there was a sound of sniffles and shallow breaths as family of 29-year-old Steenkamp cried.

Shock and relief

Steenkamp's father, Barry, ran his hand over his head, while her mother, June, pursed her lips and shook her head.

With no mandatory sentence for culpable homicide, Masipa - known for handing out stiff sentences - will have a great deal of discretion over the punishment, which could range from a fine to more than a decade in jail.

"It all comes down to how she feels, how bad the mistake was," said Johannesburg lawyer David Dadic. "It's a very serious negligence crime."

But South Africans and legal experts voiced anger and surprise that Pistorius was found not guilty of murder.

"Everyone is a little surprised," said lawyer Audrey Berndt.

Wits University criminal law professor James Grant said the state could appeal if they believe there has been a legal error.

The National Prosecuting Authority said it was "disappointed" with the verdict but had not yet decided whether to appeal.

Outside the court, Trevor, a 52-year-old pastor from Pretoria, expressed disgust at the verdict, saying it gave the impression that justice favors the rich.

"If he didn't have money, he would be in jail," he said. "Real men don't do that."

'Very poor witness'

Masipa - whose career has taken her from a childhood in a poor Johannesburg township to the country's high court - had described Pistorius as a "very poor witness" who was "evasive" when questioned.

The judge, however, found Pistorius guilty on just one of three gun charges leveled against him.

Masipa said Pistorius had been guilty of negligently handling a gun in a busy Johannesburg restaurant.

While Pistorius was having lunch with friends, he asked to see a friend's gun. While handling it under the table, the firearm went off, injuring a boxer Kevin Lerena.

"He may not have intentionally pulled the trigger," said Masipa, but "that does not absolve him of the crime of negligently handling a firearm".

AP - AFP

 

Pistorius found guilty of culpable homicide

South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, in a white shirt and tie (bottom center), leaves the High Court after the verdict in his trial over the killing of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, on Thursday, in Pretoria. Mujahid Safodien / Agence France-Presse

 

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