Pistorius ‘inconsistent’ on gunshots





















Oscar Pistorius









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








The judge in the Oscar Pistorius trial has said the accused athlete’s account of the shooting is inconsistent with someone who shot without thinking.

Mr Pistorius has said that he did not intend to kill anyone, but Judge Thokozile Masipa said the height of the bullets suggested otherwise.

Earlier she questioned the reliability of several witnesses in court, while delivering her verdict on the athlete.

Correspondents say this could cast doubt on a key prosecution argument.

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.

Tweets

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

Judge Masipa said that defence claims that police contaminated evidence and removed items from the crime scene “paled into insignificance”.

But she 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 judge also said that the court would not make inferences about the state of the relationship between Mr Pistorius and Ms Steenkamp. The prosecution has suggested that it was “on the rocks”.

She then 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.

And he says that her conclusion that the state had not contradicted Mr Pistorius’s version – that it was he who had screamed – suggests that a premeditated murder verdict is unlikely.

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.
















Judge Thokosile Masipa









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





















Possible scenarios


Verdict

What it means

Sentence

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.

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