Why Oscar Pistorius was cleared of murder and could walk free

Matthew Champion@matthewchampion
Friday 12 September 2014 10:40

Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp by a South African judge. The UK equivalent would be manslaughter.

Judge Thokozile Masipa, on the second day of summing up her verdict after a six-month trial, said the Paralympic and Olympic athlete had been "negligent" when he fired four bullets from a 9mm pistol through a shut bathroom door in his house on Valentine's Day last year.

Pistorius, 27, always admitted killing the law graduate-turned model, 29, but denied intent, saying he mistook her for an intruder.

Yesterday, Judge Masipa rejected out of hand the charges of premeditated murder and second-degree - or common law - murder, despite dubbing the accused a "very poor witness" who was "evasive" on the stand.

She said the prosecution had failed to establish that double amputee Pistorius knew Steenkamp was behind the door and that he planned to kill her. She also accepted that Pistorius did not foresee his actions would kill.

Though the judge accepted Pistorius - known as the Blade Runner due to his prostheses - did not foresee he would kill whoever was in the toilet, a reasonable man would have done, she said.

Today Pistorius was also convicted of firing a gun in a crowded restaurant but cleared of another gun charge of firing a pistol through a car's sunroof, and also of illegal possession of .38 ammunition.

He faces up to 15 years in jail for the culpable homicide conviction, for which there is no minimum sentence, meaning he could also be fined and leave court a free man.

There is also no minimum sentence for illegally discharging a firearm in a public place, which can carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

That said, the prosecution could still seek leave to appeal against the convictions.

Technically, Pistorius could himself appeal against the verdicts, although he is extremely unlikely to do so.

More: 11 key moments of the Oscar Pistorius trial

More: Why today is as much about Reeva Steenkamp as Oscar Pistorius