Oscar Pistorius, the Paralympics track star who once commanded stellar heights of international competition, on Friday was found guilty of culpable homicide for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a day after being acquitted of premeditated murder charges.
Judge Thokozile Masipa handed down her decision revealing to a packed courthouse that she would not find Pistorius guilty of premeditated murder, instead, asserting that the death of Reeva Steenkamp in the early morning hours of February 14, 2013 was a tragic accident and that while Pistorius “acted hastily and used excessive force,” he did not show intend to kill his girlfriend.
The guilty verdict on the manslaughter charge means Pistorius could receive anything from 15 years in prison to a suspended sentence that would significantly afford the accused the opportunities to resurrect his sporting career.
The Judge had said on the first day of delivering her verdict that it was clear Pistorius acted unlawfully in opening fire at his home, but the evidence for the murder charge was “purely circumstantial”.
Masipa criticized Pistorius for not calling security if he thought he heard an intruder in his home.
“Calling security … and running to the balcony to scream for help and to attract attention probably would have taken as much time, if not less, as it took to go to the bathroom and to discharge those four shots,” she said.
“A reasonable person, with a similar disability, would have foreseen that the person behind the door would be killed, and the accused failed to take action to avoid this,” Judge Masipa posited.
Pistorius’ defense raised a justification for the actions of the accused by detailing the paranoid environment he grew up in, saying that his mother reportedly slept with a firearm under her pillow but the Judge also countered that position pointing out that many other South Africans have been victims of crime and did not act the way accused did.
Pistorius is being held in cells at the court until the judge returns with her decision, expected later on Friday, on whether to give him bail ahead of sentencing.