In a trial that began in March and had initially been set to last three weeks, but it was frequently delayed, most dramatically by weeks of psychiatric tests which established that the runner was mentally fit to stand trial. Oscar Pictorius is said not be guilty of murdering his girlfriend who he killed in their home in South Africa. On the other hand, the disabled track star who once commanded stellar heights of international competition at the Paralympic and Olympic Games, was found guilty on Friday of culpable homicide, equivalent to manslaughter, after being acquitted of murder charges for killing his girlfriend.
Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa agreed to extend Mr. Pistorius’s bail until his sentencing hearing begins, on Oct. 13. She said she believed the defense’s explanation that Mr. Pistorius had sold his property to pay his legal fees and dismissed suggestions that he would try to flee the country.
The verdict marked the culmination of a closely watched drama that transfixed many around the world. Mr. Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, 29, in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013, saying he believed an intruder had entered his home.
Wielding a handgun loaded with hollow-point ammunition, he opened fire on a locked toilet cubicle door only to discover when he broke the door down with a cricket bat that Ms. Steenkamp was inside. The prosecution sought to prove that he intended to kill her, but he called her death an accident and a mistake.
The case, broadcast around the world and compared in its global fascination to the O. J. Simpson trial in the United States, has touched on far broader issues in this still divided society, 20 years after the democratic elections that formally ended the harsh racial segregation called apartheid. South Africa still struggles with race, violence and crime — factors that have not been lost on Judge Masipa, who grew up in the hardscrabble township of Soweto and struggled against the racial odds to qualify as a lawyer.
The judge acknowledged Thursday that Mr. Pistorius was particularly afraid of crime. But in a land where millions face danger without the gated residential complexes, security guards — and highly paid legal teams — of the rich elite, she was careful to note that his fears did not excuse his actions. “Many people in this country have experienced crime,” she said, “but they have not resorted to sleeping with a firearm under their pillow.”
Since there are no jury trials in South Africa, the judge arrived at her verdict with the help of two aides, known as assessors. She said the findings were unanimous.
The judge also acquitted Mr. Pistorius of two firearms charges and convicted him of another. She said state prosecutors had “failed to establish that the accused is guilty” of firing a pistol through the sunroof of a car and “must be acquitted.” She also acquitted him of a charge of illegal possession of ammunition. On a count relating to a shot fired in a crowded restaurant, she found Mr. Pistorius guilty.
The verdicts represented a crushing blow for the lead prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, who had demanded that Mr. Pistorius be convicted of premeditated murder, an offense that carries a mandatory minimum jail term of 25 years.
Judge Masipa did not immediately pronounce a sentence. Culpable homicide, which relates to negligence rather than intent, can draw a 15-year term, but the judge has wide discretion in determining the punishment. Both sides can appeal the case to a higher court and the National Prosecuting Authority said it would decide whether to do so after sentencing.
Oscar Pistorius was born without fibula bones and both legs were amputated below the knee at age 11 months, leaving him to compete on scythe-like prostheses that inspired the nickname Blade Runner, after the movie. As an athlete, fighting adversity and competing against able-bodied as well as disabled athletes, Mr. Pistorius became an emblem of South Africa’s self-image as a land that punches above its weight. But the killing incident he is into stripped the sheen off what had been a glittery story of success and celebrity. However, it looks like many South Africans are calling for Oscar’s head because of his actions/mistakes, but things cannot happen the way we want them to. More so, personally, I think the Judge’s verdict is balanced and still not out of hands, because the position Judge Masipa is in is a delicate one that needs to be handled with wisdom so as not to step on toes and at the same time generate hatred cum insecure atmosphere for the law. What do you think really?
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Source: New York Times