Oscar Pistorius has been cleared of all murder charges in the murder trial of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Judge Thozokile Masipa’s decision is the culmination of a seven-month trial that has gripped the sporting world.
The court hearing which began over six hours ago saw Judge Masipa reading out the details of the four charges against the South African athlete. The only judgement delivered were on the charges of premeditated murder and murder without premeditation. BBC African correspondent Andrew Harding tweeted ‘Judge Masipa is quietly imperious, and very impressive.’
The charge of premeditation was settled based on the fact that it was accepted that it was Pistorius who screamed after the shooting.
‘It makes sense that screaming was from Pistorius,’ the judge said.
This was a point of import for the defense who argued that Pistorius screamed when he realized Steenkamp was not in the bedroom. The prosecution had attributed the screaming to Steenkamp, using it to make their case for premeditation. This however did not hold sway with the judge who argued that she would not have been able to scream based on the injuries she sustained and the fact that she did not breathe for a few second after being wounded. The Guardian detailed other key points from Judge Masipa’s judgement.
The evidence of neighbours is “fallible” and some – such as that of Michelle Burger and her husband Charl Johnson – should be rejected entirely.
Masipa accepts the defence timetable that shots were fired at around 3:12 A.M., meaning screams heard after this time could not have been those of the victim. The sounds heard at 3:17 A.M. were the cricket bat breaking the door, as the defense maintained.
But she says that Pistorius‘ evidence that if he had wanted to kill the perceived intruder, he would have fired higher is “inconsistent with someone who shot without thinking.”
Defence claims that police tampered with the scene “pale into insignificance” in the face of other evidence.
WhatsApp messages between the couple “prove nothing” for either side.
Evidence from Steenkamp’s stomach contents that she ate later than Pistorius claimed is “inconclusive” and in any case does not help the state’s case.
She also ruled that “evidence was purely circumstantial.”
While the verdict was not given today, it is clear that the murder charges against Pistorius have been ruled out. The trial resumes tomorrow when Judge Masipa will rule on the other charges against Pistorius.