Pistorius ‘fired shots deliberately’

Oscar Pistorius

LIVE: Judge Masipa gives her verdict at the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius

The judge in the Oscar Pistorius trial has ruled out a verdict of premeditated murder, saying the prosecution failed to prove he killed his girlfriend deliberately after an argument.

But Judge Thokozile Masipa also rejected the defence’s argument that the athlete lacked criminal capacity.

The judge said she was satisfied the accused “could distinguish between right and wrong”.

She said he was an evasive witness but this did not mean he was guilty.

The South African Olympic sprinter denies murdering Ms Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, saying he thought there was an intruder.

The judge could also find him guilty of culpable homicide, or manslaughter, for which he would face a long jail term.

Mr Pistorius, 27, has pleaded not guilty to all the charges he faces, including two counts of shooting a firearm in public and the illegal possession of ammunition.

‘Insignificant’ evidence

Judge Masipa began by detailing the charges against the athlete and repeating extracts of his testimony, reading in a slow, measured way.

She then moved on to a summary of the trial.


A tense-looking Mr Pistorius looked on from the dock, and then began to weep.

The judge questioned the reliability of several witnesses who apparently heard screams and gunshots at the time of the incident, saying most of those who said they had heard the incident had “got facts wrong”.

The prosecution had used these witnesses to try to prove that Mr Pistorius had killed Ms Steenkamp with premeditation after an argument.

Later in her judgement, Judge Masipa concluded that the prosecution had failed in this.

“The state has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder,” she said. “There are just not enough facts to support such a finding.”

However, she also suggested that Mr Pistorius knew his actions might result in death, which would leave him open to the charge of murder rather than culpable homicide.

“He stated that if he wanted to shoot the intruder he would have shot higher up and more in the direction where the opening of the door would be. To the far right of the door and at chest height,” she said.

“I pause to state that this assertion is inconsistent with that of someone who shot without thinking.

The BBC’s Andrew Harding says the court is witnessing Judge Masipa’s logic and style – gentle, tolerant of error from witnesses, but razor sharp.

Judge Thokosile Masipa

Mr Pistorius wept as Judge Masipa recounted what happened on 14 February 2013

Correspondents say the judge appeared to be moving much more quickly than expected through the evidence, in a process which had been expected take hours or even days.

During his closing remarks last month, his lawyer Barry Roux conceded that the athlete should be found guilty of negligence for discharging a firearm in a restaurant – which carries a maximum penalty of five years.

Possible scenarios


What it means


Premeditated murder

Intended and planned to unlawfully kill Reeva Steenkamp, or an intruder

Mandatory life term – 25 years before parole

Common-law murder

Unlawfully intended to kill in the heat of the moment but without “malice aforethought”. Either: Shot door intending to kill, or knew someone might be killed and still fired gun

Minimum of 15 years up to 20 years, at judge’s discretion

Culpable homicide (manslaughter)

No intention to kill. Takes into account disability, but actions negligent and not in keeping with a reasonable person

Maximum of 15 years, possibly between seven and 10 years

Discharging a firearm in public

Two counts for allegedly firing a gun through a car sunroof and discharging a gun at a restaurant

A fine or up to five years – for each charge

Illegal possession of ammunition

In possession of .38 bullets for which he has no licence

A fine or up to 15 years

Most of the trial, which began on 3 March 2014, has been televised and attracted worldwide attention.

Before the fatal shooting, the 27-year-old athlete was feted in South Africa and known as the “blade runner”.

He had won gold at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and also competed at the Olympics.

Oscar Pistorius crying in court - 11 SeptemberOscar Pistorius began to weep as the judge read her verdict

Oscar Pistorius of South Africa competes at the London Olympics - August 2014In 2012, Oscar Pistorius made history by becoming the first double amputee to run in the Olympic Games

Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius posing next to his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, Johannesburg, South Africa (26 January 2013)The athlete and Reeva Steenkamp had been dating for three months before the fatal shooting

The judgement at his trial is likely to be well over 100 pages. The judge is going through each charge, summing up the prosecution and defence cases and analysing the evidence.

Ms Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law graduate, was hit three times by bullets shot through a toilet door by Mr Pistorius at his home in the capital, Pretoria, in the early hours of 14 February 2013.

Andrew Harding at scene of shooting

The BBC’s Andrew Harding in the house where the shooting took place

He denies the prosecution’s allegation that the couple – who had been dating for three months – had rowed.

The athlete said he thought she was still in the bedroom when he heard a noise in the bathroom, which he believed to be an intruder.

The prosecution have tried to characterise Mr Pistorius as a “hothead”, while his defence team have portrayed him as having a heightened response to perceived danger because of his disability and background.

In July, a psychiatric report requested by the judge said Mr Pistorius had post-traumatic stress disorder but no mental illness that could prevent him being held criminally responsible for his actions.