PRETORIA, South Africa (CBSNewYork/AP) — A South African judge on Friday found Oscar Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide, or negligent killing, in the shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp and declared him not guilty of murder.
Judge Thokozile Masipa said there was not enough evidence to support that Pistorius knew Steenkamp was behind a locked toilet door in his home when he shot through the door in the predawn hours of Valentine’s Day last year. Masipa said she found Pistorius had no intention to kill Steenkamp.
Masipa said Pistorius “acted too hastily and used excessive force.”
“It is clear that his conduct was negligent,” the judge said.
The red-robed judge ordered Pistorius, 27, to stand before she delivered the formal verdict on the multiple counts against him, and said it was a unanimous verdict, meaning she and her two legal assessors all agreed on the findings.
Unlike many other times during the trial that began in March, Pistorius showed no emotion as he stood in his dark suit with his hands crossed in front of him. The double-amputee Olympian was hugged by relatives when the judge ordered a recess soon after announcing her verdicts. A bail hearing is pending Friday afternoon.
Some legal analysts said they understood why Pistorius was found not guilty of premeditated murder but were surprised that the runner was not convicted of murder.
Pistorius then sat with his sister Aimee on the wooden bench where he has spent most of his six-month murder trial. She put an arm around his shoulders and spoke to him.
For the first time in the trial, Pistorius left by going down the stairs that led to the cells in the courthouse. That’s because Pistorius’ bail expired after his conviction and while the judge considers whether to re-grant him bail. Pistorius’ lawyer, Brian Webber, said Pistorius was taken to a “holding position.”
Members of Steenkamp’s family, including her mother June and father Barry, were also in court to hear the verdict in the 29-year-old model’s killing.
The sentence for a culpable homicide conviction is at the judge’s discretion, and it can range from a suspended sentence and a fine to up to a maximum of 15 years in prison. Sentencing was expected to be announced at a later date, when both sides could present arguments ahead of the same judge deciding on Pistorius’ sentence.
Pistorius was also convicted on one of three unrelated firearm charges. The judge ruled that the athlete was guilty of unlawfully firing a gun in a public place when a friend’s pistol he was handling discharged under a table in a restaurant in Johannesburg in early 2013 — weeks before Steenkamp’s killing.
Pistorius was acquitted on two other gun charges, including a count of firing a gun in public and a count of illegal possession of ammunition in the Pretoria home where he killed Steenkamp.
Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp in his home in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14, 2013. He said he mistook her for an intruder, while the prosecution said he killed her intentionally after an argument.
On Friday, armed security officers stood at each of the three entrances to the courtroom, while others stood near the red-robed judge as she explained her verdicts from her dais overlooking the court. There were also paramedics in the courtroom.
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