Oscar Pistorius has been cleared of the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp but may still face culpable homicide charges – manslaughter – if it is deemed that he acted with recklessness and negligence in shooting her through a locked bathroom door under the assumption she was an intruder.
Judge Thokosile Mazipa handed down her verdict to a Pretorian courtroom at capacity, outside of which chaos reigned and wherein four armed police guards presided over the events that ostensibly signal the beginning of the end of a 41 day hearing that has been carried out over the past six months.
Masipa read in full her judgment in front of an audience that included the families and parents of both Steenkamp and Pistorius, including summaries of the testimonies of 37 key witnesses who have given evidence to aid in the process of ascertaining Pistorius’s innocence
Masipa began proceedings by describing the home Pistorius shared with Steenkamp, before retracing the events of the evening that would lead to her death. She then outlined the events which have punctuated Pistorius’s trial and events in his recent past which have characterised his defence, including the firing of a 9mm pistol out a car’s sunroof in 2012; the discharging of a firearm in a restaurant and the possession of ammunition for which he did not have a licence – charges which could carry separate sentences with a maximum of five years.
A recapping of Pistorius’s statement followed soon after, which you can read in full here, before beginning a lengthy dissection of the origin of the high-pitched screams that would exonerate Pistorius. Masipa then proceed to describe in unnerving detail the wounds inflicted by Pistorius on Steenkamp after she was shot three times with exploding hollow tip bullets; detail that once caused Pistorius to throw up upon first hearing them in their initial presentation. Masipa also acknowledged that the circus that has surrounded the trial had coloured the testimony of witnesses, whose evidence was compromised by media coverage and due to the fact that “human beings are fallible and memories can change over time.”
She then evoked Pistorius’s phone records, including his WhatsApp message history, which painted a portrait of Pistorius as jealous and controlling.
Court has now adjourned for lunch.
More to come.
Photo: Mujahid Safodien via Getty Images.