A South African judge, Thokozile Masipa, has cleared Oscar Pistorius of premeditated murder and second degree murder after the prosecution team could not provide enough facts to support the case that he intended to kill his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
“It follows that the accused’s erroneous belief that his life was in danger excludes dolus. The accused therefore cannot be found guilty of murder, dolus eventualis. That however is not the end of the matter, as culpable homicide is a competent verdict,” said Judge Masipa.
She made the judgment just under three hours into delivering her decision on whether Pistorius will spend years in prison for shooting dead the 29-year-old model. Judge Masipa said the charge of premeditated murder relied on “circumstantial evidence” from the State.
“The State has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder. There are just not enough facts to support such a finding,” she said.
She told the court there was “no doubt” when Pistorius fired his gun “he acted unlawfully”, but is still to rule on whether he is guilty of a lesser crime over Ms Steenkamp’s death.
Pistorius faces one count of murder, two of illegally discharging a firearm – which is unrelated to the death of Ms Steenkamp – and one of illegally possessing ammunition. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The 27-year-old was visibly distressed and wept in court as the judge recounted the events of Valentine’s Day last year.