Oscar breathes a sigh of relief

2014-09-11 13:54
Oscar Pistorius cries in the dock. (Phil Magakoe, AP, Pool)

Oscar Pistorius cries in the dock. (Phil Magakoe, AP, Pool)

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Pretoria - A sobbing Oscar Pistorius stayed in his seat when court adjourned for an early lunch on Thursday, after hearing he could not be found guilty of murdering his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The 27-year-old paralympian sat in the dock crying, while his sister Aimee and his brother Carl, who was in a wheelchair, put their arms around him and consoled him.

Oscar Pistorius heaved a sigh of relief and continued sitting for a few minutes after Judge Thokozile Masipa had left, composing himself, before leaving Court room GD.

A white-haired man in a dark suit and glasses looked on from the first row of the public gallery. At one point he leaned forward as though to try and get the Pistorius's attention. Aimee walked up to him and kissed him on the cheek.

Carl Pistorius stayed in court for a while afterwards and two members of the public gallery who were seated in the last row approached him and hugged him.

The Steenkamp family left the court room immediately after the adjournment was announced, without saying a word.

Premeditated murder

Masipa said earlier that Pistorius could not be found guilty of premeditated murder and evidence for this was "purely circumstantial".

"The accused therefore cannot be found guilty of murder dolus eventualis [legal intent]... that however is not the end of the matter as culpable homicide is a competent verdict," she said.

His claim that he thought there was an intruder in his toilet when he shot into it, is irrelevant to his case, she said.

"The fact that the person behind the door turned out to be the deceased and not the intruder is irrelevant," said Masipa.

Pistorius is accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his Pretoria townhouse on Valentine's Day last year.

Putative self-defence

Masipa quoted from case law about the difference between private defence and putative self-defence.

Pistorius sat head down, his face red, quietly sobbing, as Masipa continued.

"If any accused honestly believes that his life is in danger, but objectively it is not... if in those circumstances he kills someone, his act is unlawful," Masipa read.

In this case the accused could be convicted of culpable homicide.

Poor witness

Earlier, Masipa said Pistorius was a "very poor witness" and contradicted himself on the stand.

She described him as an evasive witness and said he failed to listen to questions thinking of the impact of his answers.

Masipa rejected Pistorius's defence that this was because he was under emotional stress, traumatised, and medicated.

She took meticulous care as she went through the sequence of events recalled by witnesses.

Masipa also dealt with whether Pistorius's version could reasonably and possibly be true.

She said it was important to recap the State's version and whether it supported the premeditated theory with the fact that Steenkamp had her cellphone with her in the locked toilet. She said there could have been a number of reasons the model had her cellphone with her to the locked toilet.

On the food contents in Steenkamp's stomach, Masipa said the court could not rely on gastric emptying because it was not "an exact science" and the evidence was inconclusive.


Before starting her judgment Masipa said she would not give an exhaustive "rehash" of evidence.

While giving a summary of some of Pistorius's neighbours testimony and a chronology of events Masipa rejected the evidence given by two neighbours, Michelle Burger and her husband Charl Johnson, who live in Silver Stream estate, next to Pistorius's Silver Woods Country Estate.

Although Masipa rejected their evidence she said she did not think they were "dishonest".

The judge said it was unwise to rely on evidence witnesses who gave evidence on what they heard the morning Pistorius shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Masipa also said the WhatsApp messages sent between Pistorius and Steenkamp, which were read out in court, could not help determine if Pistorius wanted to kill Steenkamp.

Read more on:    reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  thokozile masipa  |  pistorius trial

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