A judge in South Africa ruled prosecutors failed to prove Oscar Pistorius committed premeditated murder when he fatally shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in 2013, clearing the double-amputee track star of the most serious charges he was facing.
This is not a final verdict in the trial, and the proceedings will continue as Pistorius still could be found guilty of lesser charges.
Under South African law, Pistorius will not be found guilty of “murder.”
Pistorius could not have foreseen that the person he was shooting at, who was behind the bathroom door, would die, and therefore the state has not proven an intent to kill, Judge Thokozile Masipa said.
She also said evidence suggests that Pistorius genuinely believed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was still in the bedroom, and that the person in the bathroom was an intruder, although that is irrelevant to the case, she said.
Before she rejected the premeditated murder charge, Judge Thokozile Masipa questioned why he fired “not one … but four shots” into the bathroom before he went to find his girlfriend.
However, she said, the intention to shoot does not necessarily mean the intent to kill.
“Court is satisfied that at the relevant time, the accused could distinguish between right and wrong” and act accordingly, she said.
A few other things to remember:
- In South Africa, there is no jury of peers. The presiding judge has the ultimate say in determining the verdict.
- If Pistorius is found guilty of culpable homicide, there is no minimum sentence under South African law. Sentencing is, you guessed it, up to the judge.