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Oscar Pistorius Found Not Guilty of Murder
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Oscar Pistorius Found Not Guilty of Murder

Summary: Oscar Pistorius, the Olympian who faced trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was found not guilty in a South African court on Thursday. The proceedings will continue on Friday, and the judge noted that Pistorius was definitely negligent in his actions that resulted in his girlfriend’s death on Valentine’s Day last year.

The LA Times reports that Oscar Pistorius, the South African Olympian whose trial has gripped the world, was found “negligent” in the killing of his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day of last year, but was not found guilty of murder.

  
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The court recessed for the day on Thursday without a final verdict, but Judge Thokozile Masipa had already ruled on the murder charges. She stated that the proceedings would resume on Friday. “It’s clear that his conduct was negligent,” she added.

Judge Masipa told the court that she did not find sufficient evidence to prove that Pistorius meant to kill Reeva Steenkamp after the two had an argument. The judge did say that Pistorius was negligent when he shot through a bathroom in his residence four times. Steenkamp had locked herself in that bathroom and was killed due to gunshot wounds.

Pistorius admitted firing his weapon, but denied knowing that his girlfriend was in the bathroom. He adamantly told the court that he thought there was an intruder in the bathroom, and that he did not mean to kill anyone.

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Thursday’s hearing took nearly the entire day. Judge Masipa ruled that Pistorius was negligent and had to have foreseen that his actions would result in the death of the person in the bathroom. She added that he failed to take reasonable steps to avoid that person’s death.

The verdict for culpable homicide was not reached on Thursday, however. When Pistorius heard that he was found not guilty of murder, he bent over and sobbed. His uncle, Arnold Pistorius, held him as he cried.



Judge Masipa stated that her ruling on the murder charge was based on the fact that the evidence presented by the prosecution was circumstantial. Although many neighbors had reported they heard a woman screaming on the night of the shooting, the judge concluded that the neighbors heard Pistorius scream, not Steenkamp.

The judge also found that Pistorius was a “poor witness” who was evasive and even argumentative while on the witness stand. She noted he was dishonest with the court when he denied that he intended to shoot that night. She rejected the defense’s position that Pistorius lacked the intent to shoot because he was under stress and on medication. However, she explained that dishonesty was not enough to warrant a guilty verdict for premeditated murder. She said Pistorius did know right from wrong, and acted deliberately when he had a gun and approached the bathroom.

As far as the judge’s opinion of the neighbors’ testimony, she ruled that some of the witnesses were confused or too far from the Pistorius home to have sufficient knowledge of the events that took place that night. She added that some neighbors failed to separate what they had actually heard from what the media reported later. “Human beings are fallible,” she explained. The most important evidence, she decided, was the testimony of Pistorius, the only surviving witness from that night.

Although Pistorius said he “fired before [he] could think,” he also said that, had he wanted to kill the person in the bathroom, he would have aimed his weapon higher. ”This assertion is inconsistent with someone who says he shot without thinking,” the judge observed.

Pistorius had pleaded not guilty to murder and to three minor charges involving illegal possession of ammunition and the alleged discharge of a gun in a restaurant and out of a vehicle sunroof.

Pistorius was the first double amputee to compete in the Olympic Games in 2012. His trial has been watched all over the world.

There is no jury system in South Africa. The judge weighs evidence and reaches a verdict with the assistance of two assessors. The judge has the final say on questions of law, and the majority decides issues of fact.

Pistorius testified that his girlfriend got up at some point in the night without his noticing. He said he heard a noise in the bathroom and thought it was an intruder. He thought Veenkamp was still in bed, and he yelled at her to call the police, approached the bathroom, and fired. He often became physically ill during the trial as the court received testimony on his girlfriend’s injuries, which included a traumatic head wound, a shattered hip, a broken arm and a hand injury. He wept or covered his ears as well.

The prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, aggressively tried the case. He demanded that the Olympic athlete “take responsibility” for the killing, and presented a graphic photograph of Steenkamp’s head injury. Pistorius was narcissistic, careless and had a short temper, he argued. He introduced a video showing Pistorius firing shots into a watermelon, in which he said it was “softer than brain.” He also said the bullet was a “zombie-stopper” as his friends laughed.

The defense argued that Pistorius was the exact opposite—sensitive, anxious, and scared. Evidence was presented that the Pistorius children were raised to fear crime, and that Pistorius was taking anti-depressants. He also suffered from a sleep disorder. A psychiatric assessment showed that Pistorius did not suffer from any mental illness that would affect his understanding of right and wrong.

Text messages demonstrating how deeply in love the couple was were read to the court as well. The prosecution added a text from Steenkamp that read, “I’m scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and how you will react to me.” This text was sent weeks before the shooting.

Photo credit: NYDailyNews.com



 

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