Oscar Pistorius Guilty of Culpable Homicide in Killing of Girlfriend

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(Colombo Lankapuvath) South Africa — Oscar Pistorius, the disabled track star who once commanded stellar heights of international competition, was found guilty of culpable homicide, equivalent to manslaughter, on Friday after being acquitted of murder charges in the killing of his girlfriend in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013.

As she pronounced her verdicts, Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa asked Mr. Pistorius, 27, to stand in the wooden dock in the North Gauteng High Court here in the South African capital. The athlete, dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and black tie, looked straight ahead, his hands crossed in front of him.

“You may take a seat,” the judge told him as she concluded her verdicts, which represented a crushing blow for the lead prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, who had demanded that Mr. Pistorius be convicted of premeditated murder in the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp — an offense that carries a minimum jail term of 25 years.

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Judge Masipa did not immediately issue a sentence. Culpable homicide, which relates to negligence rather than intent, can draw a 15-year jail term, but the judge has wide discretion in determining the sentence. It was also possible that the case could go to a higher court on appeal.

The judge also acquitted Mr. Pistorius on two of three firearms charges and convicted him of another. Judge Masipa said state prosecutors had “failed to establish that the accused is guilty” of firing a pistol through the sunroof of a car and “must be acquitted.” On a count relating to a shot fired in a crowded restaurant, she found Mr. Pistorius guilty, but she acquitted him on a charge of illegal possession of ammunition.

The hearing on Friday was the culmination of events dating to the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year, when Mr. Pistorius says he suspected a burglar had entered his home. He opened fire on a locked toilet cubicle door only to discover that Ms. Steenkamp, 29, was inside. The prosecution sought to prove that he intended to kill her.

While the judge rejected the prosecution’s case, saying it had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt and was based on circumstantial evidence, she said Mr. Pistorius had been negligent when he opened fire, knowing that somebody was inside the toilet cubicle.

“A reasonable person with a similar disability would have foreseen the possibility that the person behind the door” would have been killed, the judge said. Since there are no jury trials in South Africa, Judge Masipa framed the verdict with the help of two assessors.

Mr. Pistorius was born without fibulas and had his lower legs amputated at the age of 11 months. As a runner, fighting adversity and competing against able-bodied as well as disabled athletes, Mr. Pistorius became an emblem of South Africa’s vaunted self-image as a land that punches above its weight.

The judge acknowledged Thursday that Mr. Pistorius was particularly afraid of crime. But in a land where millions face danger without the gated residential complexes, security guards — and highly paid legal teams — of the rich elite, the judge was careful to note that his fears did not excuse his actions. “Many people in this country have experienced crime,” she said, “but they have not resorted to sleeping with a firearm under their pillow.”

Oscar Pistorius Guilty of Culpable Homicide in Killing of Girlfriend

(Colombo Lankapuvath) South Africa — Oscar Pistorius, the disabled track star who once commanded stellar heights of international competition, was found guilty of culpable homicide, equivalent to manslaughter, on Friday after being acquitted of murder charges in the killing of his girlfriend in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013.

As she pronounced her verdicts, Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa asked Mr. Pistorius, 27, to stand in the wooden dock in the North Gauteng High Court here in the South African capital. The athlete, dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and black tie, looked straight ahead, his hands crossed in front of him.

“You may take a seat,” the judge told him as she concluded her verdicts, which represented a crushing blow for the lead prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, who had demanded that Mr. Pistorius be convicted of premeditated murder in the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp — an offense that carries a minimum jail term of 25 years.

Continue reading the main story Related Coverage
Oscar Pistorius Not Guilty of Murder; Still Faces Lesser Homicide ChargeSEPT. 11, 2014 Oscar Pistorius checked his cellphone on Wednesday as he returned to court in Pretoria, South Africa.

Oscar Pistorius at Increasing Risk of Suicide, Lawyer SaysJULY 2, 2014 Pistorius Wasn’t Mentally Ill When He Fired, Report saysJUNE 30, 2014 The Fast Life of Oscar PistoriusJAN. 18, 2012 During testimony in May, Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa and lawyers examined the door from Oscar Pistorius’s bathroom, which had been brought into court in Pretoria, South Africa.

Oscar Pistorius Trial Judge Overcame ApartheidAUG. 6, 2014 Oscar Pistorius, center right, left the court in Pretoria, South Africa, where he is on trial.

Dogged Prosecutor Seeks to Paint Pistorius as a BullyAPRIL 10, 2014 Times Topic: Oscar Pistorius

Judge Masipa did not immediately issue a sentence. Culpable homicide, which relates to negligence rather than intent, can draw a 15-year jail term, but the judge has wide discretion in determining the sentence. It was also possible that the case could go to a higher court on appeal.

The judge also acquitted Mr. Pistorius on two of three firearms charges and convicted him of another. Judge Masipa said state prosecutors had “failed to establish that the accused is guilty” of firing a pistol through the sunroof of a car and “must be acquitted.” On a count relating to a shot fired in a crowded restaurant, she found Mr. Pistorius guilty, but she acquitted him on a charge of illegal possession of ammunition.

The hearing on Friday was the culmination of events dating to the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year, when Mr. Pistorius says he suspected a burglar had entered his home. He opened fire on a locked toilet cubicle door only to discover that Ms. Steenkamp, 29, was inside. The prosecution sought to prove that he intended to kill her.

While the judge rejected the prosecution’s case, saying it had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt and was based on circumstantial evidence, she said Mr. Pistorius had been negligent when he opened fire, knowing that somebody was inside the toilet cubicle.

“A reasonable person with a similar disability would have foreseen the possibility that the person behind the door” would have been killed, the judge said. Since there are no jury trials in South Africa, Judge Masipa framed the verdict with the help of two assessors.

Mr. Pistorius was born without fibulas and had his lower legs amputated at the age of 11 months. As a runner, fighting adversity and competing against able-bodied as well as disabled athletes, Mr. Pistorius became an emblem of South Africa’s vaunted self-image as a land that punches above its weight.

The judge acknowledged Thursday that Mr. Pistorius was particularly afraid of crime. But in a land where millions face danger without the gated residential complexes, security guards — and highly paid legal teams — of the rich elite, the judge was careful to note that his fears did not excuse his actions. “Many people in this country have experienced crime,” she said, “but they have not resorted to sleeping with a firearm under their pillow.”

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