South African Paralympian cleared of murder; verdict expected Friday
Pistorius may now be charged with culpable homicide.

The judge in the trial of South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius has ruled out a murder conviction against the internationally-recognized athlete, while postponing a final verdict until Friday.

"I will have to stop here. We shall proceed tomorrow [Friday] at 9:30am," Judge Thokozile Masipa said Thursday.

The judge said that Pistorius could not be found guilty of murder dolus eventualis.

"The accused knew there was a person behind the door and he chose to use a lethal weapon," she said.

In her view, Masipa said, the accused had acted hastily.

Pistorius may now be charged with culpable homicide.

He was emotional as the judge read from a written statement.

Masipa said the athlete had been a "poor witness" and "evasive" when answering questions during his six-month-long murder trial.

She added that Pistorius had been "evasive" when giving testimony and failed to answer questions properly.

"Often a question requiring a straight answer turned into debate," Masipa said.

The judge also criticized the athlete's conduct while in the witness dock, citing his "emotional behavior" – which she said his lawyers had attempted to justify by saying their client was under heavy medication.

She said his reasoning did "not make sense," adding that the accused had repeatedly contradicted himself during cross examinations.

Judge Masipa asserted that Pistorius had the ability to distinguish right from wrong when he fired the fatal shots.

"The court is satisfied that, at the relevant time, the accused could distinguish between right and wrong," she said.

The 27-year-old Paralympian is accused of murdering model-girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his Pretoria home on Valentine's Day (February 14) of last year. He also faces three other charges.

Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to all charges, insisting that he shot at the bathroom door in the mistaken belief that an intruder had entered the house – not realizing his girlfriend was inside.

The judge went on to question the credibility of some of the witnesses who had said they had heard screams and gunshots simultaneously.

The judge noted that the case had attracted considerable media attention, asserting that some witnesses had discussed the case with others – giving them an idea about the questions they might face in court.

The case against South Africa's "blade runner" has taken several months, with 37 witnesses taking turns in the witness dock.

If convicted of murder, Pistorius could be imprisoned for life. If convicted of culpable homicide, he could face up to 15 years behind bars.

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Last Modified: 2014-09-12 09:34:40
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