Pistorius awaits final verdict in girlfriend′s death | Africa | DW | 12.09.2014
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Africa

Pistorius awaits final verdict in girlfriend's death

Oscar Pistorius has arrived in court in Pretoria for the second day in a row to hear the court's verdict in the case against the former Olympian. Premeditated murder has been ruled out.

Judge Thokozile Masipa on Friday continued reading out her verdict in the six-month-long trial of the former runner, who on Thursday was cleared of murder charges.

Pistorius looked on, at times sobbing, during Thursday's four-and-a-half-hour reading.

"The state has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder," Masipa said, shortly before breaking for lunch around three hours into Thursday's proceedings. "There are just not enough facts to support such a finding."

"There is no doubt that he acted unlawfully when he fired shots at the door," she said, adding that it was irrelevant who was behind the door.

Masipa also said that Pistorius was evasive during the trial and pointed out inconsistencies in his own testimony under cross-examination. Pistorius is facing charges including manslaughter. He said that he had mistaken his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp - behind a locked bathroom door - for an intruder.

During Thursday's reading, the judge raised the question as to whether a reasonable person would have fired at someone behind that bathroom door, and whether a reasonable person would have known that a person shot at with such a caliber from behind a door could have been injured, resulting in death.

Referring to evidence presented in court that there may have been an argument between Pistorius and Steenkamp an hour before the shooting, the judge said the court would refrain from making inferences about the relationship between the accused and the deceased, instead relying on scientific evidence.

"Normal relationships are dynamic and unpredictable most of the time, while human beings are fickle," Masipa said. "None of the evidence of a loving relationship, or a relationship turned sour, can assist this court."

She also pointed out that some of the witness testimony had been flawed, but that that was to be expected from a case that relied on auditory evidence - possible screams, gunshots or other violence heard by witnesses.

'Conscious' decision to shoot

Judge Masipa also read from the defense's testimony.

Pistorius had said in his testimony that he was not trying to fire fatal shots. Had he wanted to shoot any intruder, he said, he would have aimed higher, at chest height. The defense argued Pistorius did not intentionally discharge his firearm at the toilet door.

"Before thinking, I fired out of fear," he stated in court. "I was not meaning to shoot at anyone."

Judge Masipa said that he had made a conscious decision on the early morning of February 14. She said Pistorius had intentionally discharged his firearm in the belief that an intruder was coming to attack him.

She said it could not have been an act of "punitive" self-defense, as the defense claimed, had he had no intention to shoot anyone.

She also clarified questions of his state of mind at the time of the shooting: "This court is of the opinion that the accused could distinguish between right and wrong" at the time of the shooting and that a psychological evaluation supported this.

Valentine's Day death

The double-amputee Olympic sprinter shot his 29-year-old girlfriend, law-graduate and model Reeva Steenkamp, through a bathroom door in his home in Pretoria, South Africa, on February 14 last year.

His trial incorporated 41 days in court at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, focusing on his motive for firing four shots into the bathroom door.

The 27-year-old maintains he believed there was an intruder in the bathroom.

Heated trial

The trial was spread over six months and was not attended by a jury. Testimony from around 35 witnesses was presented.

Oscar Pistorius had become a hero to many, a symbol of triumph over adversity. Despite having his legs amputated as a baby, he won a total of six Paralympic gold medals in his career running on prosthetics - ultimately making the semi-finals of the 400 meters at the London Olympics in 2012.

sb/pfd (Reuters, dpa)

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