Oscar Pistorius Cleared Of Premeditated Murder Charge

In an interesting turn of events, Judge Thokozile Masipa has ruled out all the murder charges in Oscar Pistorius trial. However, she has said he may still be guilty of culpable homicide (manslaughter).

In an interesting turn of events, Judge Thokozile Masipa has ruled out all the murder charges in Oscar Pistorius trial.

However, she has said he may still be guilty of culpable homicide (manslaughter).

Judge Masipa said that the prosecution has failed to prove the Olympic athlete killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp deliberately in the toilet after a row. He cannot have foreseen killing whoever was behind the toilet door, she said. She added he was an evasive witness but this did not mean he was guilty.

The verdict prompted tears from Pistorius who denies murdering Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, saying he thought there was an intruder.

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

Pistorius had pleading not guilty denying the allegations that the couple of three months had had an argument before the incident.

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

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

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

Before delivering the verdict, reportedly, 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 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.”

The judge added that the accused believed his life was in danger and therefore could not be found guilty of a lesser charge of murder.

“How could the accused reasonably have foreseen that the shot he fired would kill the deceased?” she said. “Clearly he did not subjectively foresee this as a possibility, that he would kill the person behind the door, let alone the deceased as he thought she was in the bedroom at the time.”

Since Pistorius has not been held guilty of premeditated murder, here are all the possible scenarios compiled by BBC, which may lead to other tense verdict and sentences:

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.

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