“Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius Gets His Verdict
CBS News – Oscar Pistorius sat down in a Pretoria court Friday and within an hour, he heard the verdict for which he and much of the world have waited more than a year.
After a rocky day in the same room on Thursday, the double-amputee track star knew he would not be convicted of the most serious charges he had faced in the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp; premeditated murder or murder.
Judge Thokozile Masipa resumed reading her approximately 100-page ruling Friday morning, and she didn’t take long to get to the point.
She declared Pistorius guilty on the charge of culpable homicide. Pistorius showed no significant emotion when she read the key part of her decision.
The ruling means Masipa deemed the runner negligent in causing Steenkamp’s death. It is a charge roughly equivalent to manslaughter in the U.S. legal system.
Depending on the degree of neglect she decides to assign Pistorius for the death of Steenkamp, she could hit him merely with a financial penalty, a period of supervision outside of prison, or possibly decades behind bars.
The sentence is likely to come in the next couple weeks, but it could take more than a month. Judge Masipa announced later Friday that she was extending bail for Pistorius — meaning he will not be held in prison — prior to his sentencing. She said she would announce her sentence for Pistorius on Oct. 13.
There is no jury in the South African legal system, and the judge is solely responsible for determining guilt or innocence and then issuing a sentence.
CBS News’ Debora Patta reports that Steenkamp’s mother sat stony faced — stoic, as she has been through much of this trial — as the verdict was read. But Steenkamp’s friends could not hold back, bursting into floods of tears.
Masipa called Pistorius a very “poor witness,” but she said he gave a version that was reasonably true.
“It cannot be said that the accused did not entertain a genuine belief that there was an intruder in the house,” she told the court. And she found his actions after the shooting inconsistent with someone who wanted to commit murder.
But culpable homicide is a serious charge, and Masipa clearly found Pistorius lacking in judgement.
“A reasonable person with a similar disability would have foreseen that the person behind the door would be killed,” she said.
On Thursday, Masipa ruled out the most serious charges, saying the “state has clearly not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder.”
Her move shocked many South African legal observers.
When those facts crystallized Thursday in Pistorius’ mind, he slumped forward and broke down in tears on the courtroom bench.
Pistorius maintained that he shot Steenkamp four times through the locked door of a bathroom cubicle in his luxury home believing she was an intruder in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year.
The prosecution had tried to argue that the entire story of a perceived intruder was fabricated by the track star, and that he actually killed her in a fit of rage after an argument.
Masipa began Thursday with a devastating critique of the prosecution’s case, which relied heavily on neighbors’ testimonies that they heard the blood curdling screams of a woman. She said while the neighbors were not deliberately dishonest, they were unreliable.
“The evidence of witnesses must be rejected in its entirety,” said Masipa. “A court has to evaluate all the facts taking into account the number of contradictions.”
CBS News managed to get a rare look inside Pistorius’ home — returning to the scene of the crime.
The bathroom where Steenkamp was killed is surprisingly small. On the wall you can still see the tape marking the bullet holes where he fired those four fatal shots.