Oscar Pistorius verdict: More questions than answers

2014-09-12 06:00

Legal minds were baffled as the first day in Oscar Pistorius’ judgment delivery drew to a close at the North Gauteng High Court yesterday afternoon.

Judge Thokozile Masipa found Paralympian Oscar Pistorius not guilty of murder - but he can still be found guilty of culpable homicide (manslaughter) with a maximum sentence of 15 years.

Lawyers in courtroom GD shook their heads and some members of Reeva Steenkamp’s family left with sunglasses over tear-stained cheeks.

The unfolding judgment proved a rollercoaster ride favouring the two opposing sides in turn, before starting to lean in Pistorius’ favour.

Judge Masipa said the defence team’s timeline of events on the night of the murder tipped the evidence in favour of Pistorius. She added that he had been an “evasive” witness.

“Amongst other things, Oscar was an evasive witness. There was an impression that he was worried about the impact of his answers,” said the judge.

Nevertheless, Judge Masipa appears to be leaning towards his defence of putative self-defence – meaning that she believes he genuinely thought his life was in danger when he shot and killed the “intruder” who turned out to be Steenkamp.

“I am of the view that the accused acted too hastily and with excessive force,” said Masipa, before adjourning the courtroom on the verge of what was considered a tense cliff-hanger. Masipa is expected to finish the judgment today.

Speaking on Talk Radio702 yesterday, criminal law expert Tyrone Maseko said he had concerns over the judgment so far.

“There were leaps and jumps in the reasoning. There were issues that were not quite ventilated. The glaring one for me is: Oscar Pistorius was not a good witness, as she said herself. What amazes me is that she seemed to have upheld this defence of putative self-defence.”

There is already talk that the state will appeal the judgment.

The following comment was made by a family member close to murdered Reeva Steenkamp.

A family member close to the Steenkamps said: “From what I gather it seems like the state will appeal the judgment. Certainly [Judge Masipa's] understanding of what constitutes Dolus Eventualis seems to differ from almost every legal mind. We shall see.”

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