South African Judge Thokozile Masipa on Friday found Oscar Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide, after he was cleared of intentionally murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
On the charge of murder, Masipa said, “the accused is found not guilty and is discharged, instead he is found guilty of culpable homicide.” The maximum sentence for culpable homicide is up to 15 years in prison. The judge will sentence the celebrity athlete in a later date.
Before announcing the homicide verdict, the judge found Pistorius guilty of negligently handling a gun in restaurant, but acquitted him on two other firearm charges.
In the state`s first victory after the shock dismissal of murder charges against the star athlete, the judge said Pistorius was guilty of recklessly discharging a firearm in a packed Johannesburg restaurant.
Pistorius was accused of asking to see a gun in Tasha`s restaurant and while handling it under the table the firearm went off.
“He may not have intentionally pulled the trigger… that does not absolve him of the crime of negligently handling a firearm,” said Masipa.
Pistorius, who had remained emotionless the whole morning, started clenching his jaw during the ruling.
Masipa had however cleared Pistorius on charges of illegally possessing ammunition, which the sprinter said belonged to his father.
She also said there was not enough evidence to suggest he was guilty of another count of shooting a gun through a car sunroof.
Yesterday, Pistorius was acquitted of murdering his model girlfriend in a shock decision that legal experts described as too lenient.
In a globally-broadcast live television verdict, Judge Thokozile Masipa on Thursday found the double amputee “Blade Runner” not guilty of deliberately killing 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp.
“The state clearly has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder,” Masipa told the Pretoria High Court, before adjourning for the day.
Legal experts voiced shock that Pistorius was found not guilty of murder, and predicted the case that has gripped South Africans and much of the world for a year would not rest with the verdict.
“I think she`s going to get quite a lot of criticism from the judiciary and the legal system,” said criminal lawyer Martin Hood.
“The consensus among the legal community was that he is guilty of murder,” the Johannesburg-based lawyer added.
“This could really open the door to systematic abuse of our legal system by people who shoot their partners and claim self-defence.”
Unless acquitted altogether, Pistorius could still face more than a decade behind bars in South Africa`s notoriously brutal jails.
Masipa — who made the journey from a poor Johannesburg township to one of the country`s top legal posts — seemed to lean towards finding Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide before the abrupt adjournment.
After describing Pistorius, 27, as a “very poor witness” who was “evasive” when questioned, Masipa criticised his actions in the early hours of Valentine`s Day 2013.
“I am of the view that the accused acted too hastily and used excessive force. In the circumstances, it is clear that his conduct was negligent,” she said.