Oscar Pistorius broke down in court as the judge delivered the verdict.
The Paralympian and so-called Blade Runner faced one count of murder and three unrelated charges of illegally discharging a firearm and illegally possessing ammunition. 27 year-old Pistorius pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Pistorius has admitted to killing his girlfriend, 29 year-old Reeva Steenkamp; however, his defence was that he shot her by mistake through the closed door of the bathroom in the erroneous belief she was an intruder.
He claimed to the police and in court that he fired at the door of the bathroom after hearing a noise without thinking and said it was an “accidental discharge;” he said he genuinely believed his life – and her life – were in danger. Dimissing this argument, the prosecution argued instead that it was a deliberate and premeditated murder.
South Africa and the rest of the world were gripped by the trial which lasted for 41 days and heard from 37 witnesses. The judge said it had been made clear Pistorius was in control of his actions, saying: “There’s a huge difference between a reflex and involuntary action” and said he “took a conscious decision” to shoot and that “he knew where he kept his firearm and where the bathroom was.”
Judge Masipa went on: “This court is satisfied that at the relevant time the accused could distinguish between right and wrong and could act in accordance.” The judge also dismissed the defence of putative defence: “There was no lapse of memory or any confusion on the part of the accused.”
Judge Masipa said she found Oscar Pistorius to be a “very poor witness” and too “calm and composed” when questioned by his defence team. She said, however, that he “broke down” under cross-examination and was an “evasive witness” that had not “been candid with this court.” Despite encouraging pats on the arm from his defence team, Mr Pistorius listened to the verdict with obvious tears rolling down his face and his shoulders heaving from sobbing.
Saying that any evidence for murder was purely circumstantial and that the prosecution had not made a satisfactory case for premeditated murder, the judge examined the case for Culpable Homicide. Judge Thokozile Masipa asked: “Was the accused negligent in causing death of deceased” and applied the “reasonable man” test, saying that what was reasonable in 1933, is not necessarily reasonable now. She examined Pistorius’s circumstances and background and found he had offered an explanation for his conduct, but that it was not an excuse and that what was reasonable depended on the facts of this actual case. The judge concluded that Pistorius had indeed been negligent in his behaviour. In a shock move, Judge Masipa then adjourned the hearing until today.
The court came back into session this morning and Judge Thokozile Masipa delivered a carefully considered verdict of Culpable Homicide.