Pistorius found guilty of culpable homicide

Fri Sep 12, 2014 12:38pm EDT
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By Stella Mapenzauswa and Tiisetso Motsoeneng

PRETORIA (Reuters) - Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide on Friday, escaping the more serious charge of murder for the killing of his girlfriend, and will now battle to avoid going to prison.

The 27-year-old double amputee, who became one of the biggest names in world athletics, stood impassively in the dock, his hands folded in front of him, as Judge Thokozile Masipa delivered her verdict.

Pistorius was also convicted of firing a pistol under the table of a packed Johannesburg restaurant but cleared of two other firearms charges - illegal possession of ammunition and firing a pistol out of the sun-roof of a car.

Masipa based her decision of culpable homicide on the reasoning that Pistorius had acted negligently when he fired four shots from a 9mm pistol into a toilet door in his luxury Pretoria home, killing Steenkamp, who was behind it, almost instantly.

He said it was a tragic error, and that he had believed he was shooting at an intruder.

Steenkamp's mother June was unconvinced, saying: "Justice was not served."

"I just don't feel this is the right sentence," she told the U.S. network NBC. "I won't believe his story and that's the difference."

Culpable homicide - South Africa's equivalent of manslaughter - carries up to 15 years in prison but, given Pistorius's lack of previous convictions, legal experts said he could avoid a custodial sentence altogether.   Continued...

South African Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius leaves the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, September 12, 2014.  REUTERS/Mike Hutchings