Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius will find out today if he is guilty of the manslaughter of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp during a Valentine’s Day shooting at his home in Pretoria.
The double-amputee broke down in court yesterday as he was cleared of two murder charges.
Judge Thokozile Masipa hinted the 27-year-old may be convicted of a lesser charge of culpable homicide after describing his actions as “negligent” on the night she died.
The 27-year-old athlete broke down as Judge Masipa said there was not enough evidence to support prosecution claims Mr Pistorius intended to kill the law graduate and model last year.
But the judge appeared to indicate he will be convicted of culpable homicide – the South African equivalent of the manslaughter charge – when he returns to court today.
Judge Masipa described Mr Pistorius as being “negligent” in killing 29-year-old Ms Steenkamp.
She told the court in Pretoria, which included members of both the defendant’s and the victim’s families, that Mr Pistorius acted “hastily” with “too much force” when he fired four bullets through his toilet door in the early hours of 14 February 2013.
Mr Pistorius was also described by the judge as a “very poor witness”, who “lost his composure” during cross-examination.
The athlete, dubbed Blade Runner due to his prosthetic limbs, has always admitted he shot Ms Steenkamp, though he told police he simply mistook his girlfriend for intruders.
Delivering her verdict yesterday, judge Masipa criticised Mr Pistorius’s decision to reach for his 9mm pistol and fire it through the toilet cubicle in his home rather than raise the alarm or fire a warning shot.
She said: “If the accused, for example, had awoken in the middle of the night and in darkness seen a silhouette by his bed and in a panic shot at that figure, only to find it was the deceased, his conduct would have been understandable and perhaps excusable.
“The accused had reasonable time to think, reflect and conduct himself. I’m not persuaded that a reasonable person with the same disability would have fired the four shots.
“The accused knew there was a person behind the toilet door, he chose to use a firearm. I am of the view the accused acted too hastily and used too much force. It is clear his conduct is negligent.”
Mr Pistorius made no comment as he left the court. He will be braced to expect another media scrum when he returns to the building today.
In addition to the manslaughter charge, the Olympian will also face verdicts in three alleged firearms offences. Any conviction is likely to result in an adjournment for sentencing.