South African judge Thokozile Masipa has cleared Oscar Pistorius of murder charges in the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, but still could—and according to some observers, will—convict the sprinter of “culpable homicide.” From the BBC:
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 prosecution had used these witnesses to try to prove that Mr Pistorius had killed Ms Steenkamp with premeditation after an argument.
Later in her judgement, Judge Masipa concluded that the prosecution had failed in this.
“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.”
Crucially, though, the judge also said that Pistorius’s conduct on the night he shot Steenkamp had been negligent and that a “reasonable person” would not have fired a weapon during the incident—statements that, according to the BBC’s Andrew Harding, point toward a culpable homicide conviction.
The punishment for that conviction could mean anywhere from no jail time to a 15 year sentence according to the judge’s decision. Judge Masipa, however, adjourned court until tomorrow before finishing her discussion of all the charges against Pistorius, a decision that the New York Times said was unexpected and unexplained.