, Pretoria, Sept 12 – Celebrity athlete Oscar Pistorius faces judgement on a charge of culpable homicide on Friday after being acquitted of murdering his model girlfriend in a shock decision that legal experts described as too lenient.
In a globally-broadcast live television verdict, Judge Thokozile Masipa on Thursday found the double amputee “Blade Runner” not guilty of deliberately killing 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp.
“The state clearly has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder,” Masipa told the Pretoria High Court, before adjourning for the day.
On Friday she will conclude her verdict.
Legal experts voiced shock that Pistorius was found not guilty of murder, and predicted the case that has gripped South Africans and much of the world for a year would not rest with the verdict.
“I think she’s going to get quite a lot of criticism from the judiciary and the legal system,” said criminal lawyer Martin Hood.
“The consensus among the legal community was that he is guilty of murder,” the Johannesburg-based lawyer added.
“This could really open the door to systematic abuse of our legal system by people who shoot their partners and claim self-defence.”
Unless acquitted altogether, Pistorius could still face more than a decade behind bars in South Africa’s notoriously brutal jails.
Masipa — who made the journey from a poor Johannesburg township to one of the country’s top legal posts — seemed to lean towards finding Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide before the abrupt adjournment.