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05/05/2015

Verdict in Oscar Pistorius murder trial to hinge

Verdict in Oscar Pistorius murder trial to hinge on intent

 

Judge Thokozile Masipa, 66, begins reading her verdict Thursday at the high court here in South Africa's capital after a 41 day trial, interrupted by breaks so mental Black Leather Covered 120mm health experts could evaluate the sprinter, that started March 3. The prosecution maintains that Pistorius planned to Black Leather Covered 120mm kill his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, after an argument, while the defense says he mistook her for an intruder, and her death was a "huge, unfortunate mistake."

 

MORE: Pistorius on 'the moment that everything changed'

 

Masipa will render one of three guilty verdicts on the main charge, Ulrich Roux, a director at Johannesburg based BDK Attorneys, said by phone Tuesday. "One is premeditated murder. The next one is that he's convicted of murder, which is straight murder. The third one is that he's convicted of culpable homicide, which is the negligent unlawful killing of a person."

 

RELATED: Murder trial is a mix of drama and routine

 

Masipa Leather Colizip 100mm will render one of three guilty verdicts on the main charge, Ulrich Roux, a director at Johannesburg based BDK Attorneys, said Tuesday: "One is premeditated murder. The next one is that he's convicted of murder, which is straight murder. The third one is that he's convicted of culpable homicide, which is the negligent unlawful killing of a person."

 

Pistorius, 27, allegedly killed Steenkamp by firing four hollow point bullets through a toilet cubicle door in a bathroom at his Pretoria home on Valentine's Day last year.

 

MORE: Pistorius now wakes up to the 'smell of blood'

 

If found guilty of planning Steenkamp's death, Pistorius would face a minimum of 25 years in jail. A verdict of murder without premeditation may carry a sentence of at least 15 years; a culpable homicide decision could mean as many as 15 years in prison.

 

Should Masipa agree with the defense's contention that the shooting was a reflex and Pistorius lacked cognitive capacity, he could face a lesser sentence or even acquittal.

 

Known as the Blade Runner because of his J shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius was the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics. He's been free on 1 million rand ($92,000) bail since February last year. If found guilty, Pistorius's bail will be revoked and he will have to submit a new application, Roux said.

 

The charges have derailed the running career of the winner of six Paralympic gold medals and cost Pistorius sponsorship deals with Nike and Luxottica Group's Oakley. He sold his home in Pretoria in May.

 

Masipa, a former social worker who in 1998 became South Africa's second black woman appointed as a high court judge, is making the ruling with the aid of two assessors. South Africa has no jury system.

 

If Pistorius is found guilty, the state and defense teams will request time to compile evidence for sentencing, which will probably be six to 12 weeks after the verdict, Marius du Toit, a criminal defense lawyer based in Pretoria, said in an interview.

 

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said in his closing argument last month that if Masipa accepts that Pistorius acted in self defense, the athlete "can't escape" a finding "at the very least" of intent because he would have had to foresee the possibility that he may shoot and kill someone.

 

"The factual matrix for Oscar would be even if he believed it was an intruder behind that door, he knew that shooting the door would kill the intruder under circumstances where he wasn't permitted to shoot," said Stephen Tuson, an adjunct professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

 

The athlete has also pleaded not guilty to three separate gun related charges, which include firing a firearm in a restaurant and shooting out of a car. He could face sentences ranging from up to five years to a fine for each count.

 

"All those charges were meant to do is to paint a picture for the court," du Toit said. "The state has succeeded in proving that Oscar is erratic, at the very least. And they might even find that he's short tempered."

 

Defense attorney Barry Roux said that even if Masipa rejects the idea that Pistorius' act was a reflex and did involve a thought process, it must consider his anxiety and sense of vulnerability caused by his disability.

 

Pistorius underwent 30 days of psychological observation, which was requested by Nel, the prosecutor, after an expert testified that a disorder may affect his judgment.

 

A psychologist who participated in the evaluation said in a report read out at the trial that at the time of the Black Suede Diptic 100mm shooting, Pistorius suffered from no mental illness "that affect his ability to distinguish between the rightful and wrongful nature of his deeds."