A South African judge cleared Oscar Pistorius of all murder charges on Thursday, saying prosecutors had failed to prove the Olympic and Paralympic track star intended to kill his girlfriend or an imagined intruder on Valentine’s Day last year.
A verdict on the less serious charge of culpable homicide is still to come.
Although judge Thokozile Masipa described the 27-year-old as a “very poor” and “evasive” witness, she said this did not mean the track star was necessarily guilty in a case she said was based entirely on circumstantial evidence.
“The state has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder,” Masipa told the Pretoria High Court. “There are just not enough facts to support such a finding.”
She then proceeded to absolve Pistorius, who said he shot model and law graduate Reeva Steenkamp in the mistaken belief she was an intruder hiding in a toilet cubicle, of the lesser murder charge of dolus eventualis.
“Clearly he did not subjectively foresee this as a possibility that he would kill the person behind the door – let alone the deceased – as he thought she was in the bedroom,” she told the packed courtroom.
As she delivered her decision, Pistorius, who would have faced at least 25 years behind bars for premeditated murder, sat sobbing in the dock, tears streaming down his cheeks.
Although he has been cleared of the two murder charges, he could still be convicted of culpable homicide for the negligent or reckless killing of Steenkamp, who was hit by four 9mm rounds Pistorius fired through the toilet door at his luxury Pretoria home.
Read more at Reuters