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Oscar Pistorius Trial: Key Points From Judge Thokozile Masipa's Remarks

09/11/2014 12:07 EDT | Updated 11/11/2014 05:59 EST
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Oscar Pistorius cries in the dock in Pretoria, South Africa, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014 as Judge Thokozile Masipa reads notes as she delivers her verdict in Pistorius' murder trial. Masipa appeared to be heading for a culpable homicide finding after ruling out both premeditated murder and murder verdicts in the shooting death of the double-amputee Olympic athlete's girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. (AP Photo/Kim Ludbrook, Pool)
South African Judge Thokozile Masipa did not finish reading her decision in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius on Thursday, but explained much of her reasoning behind the upcoming verdicts in the case against the double-amputee Olympic athlete.

Pistorius is accused of the premeditated murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day in 2013.

Here's a look at some of the key decisions Masipa read to the Pretoria court on Thursday, before adjourning the court to meet again Friday.

1) Pistorius cannot be found guilty of murder: Masipa said the most severe charge facing Pistorius — premeditated murder — was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt. She called the evidence purely circumstantial. "There are just not enough facts to support such a finding," she said.

She also ruled out a lesser murder charge, saying Pistorius did not foresee he could kill anyone the night he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through a closed bathroom door.
 
"Clearly [Pistorius] did not subjectively foresee this as a possibility that he would kill the person behind the door, let alone the deceased as he thought she was in the bedroom." 

2) Pistorius was "negligent" when he killed Steenkamp: Masipa said she was "not persuaded" that a reasonable person with Pistorius's abilities would have fired the shots that killed the law graduate and model. 

"I am of the view that the accused acted too hastily and with excessive force," Masipa said.

The judge also called culpable homicide "a competent verdict," a decision that would could see Pistorius sent to jail for a maximum of 15 years, although five years in prison is a guideline when a firearm is used.

3) Pistorius was a bad witness: Masipa said Pistorius was a "very poor," evasive witness who was "not candid" and contradicted himself under cross-examination, but she emphasized that did not mean he was guilty of murder.

4) There is "some doubt" as to whether a woman screamed the night of the killing: The state had argued Steenkamp screamed during a heated row with the Paralympic athlete before he deliberately shot her through the bathroom door. Casting doubt on witness accounts of hearing a woman's screams, Masipa said "none of the witnesses had ever heard the accused cry or scream, let alone when he was anxious," apparently acknowledging the defence argument that Pistorius had been screaming in a high-pitched voice.

Masipa also cited testimony of an acoustics expert called by the defence, saying it cast "serious doubt" on whether witnesses who were hundreds of metres away in their homes — as some state witnesses were — could have differentiated between the screams of a man or a woman.

5) Allegations of contaminated evidence were not significant: Defence claims that police contaminated evidence and removed items from the crime scene "paled into insignificance," Masipa said.

6) Text messages between the couple were not relevant: Prosecutors had submitted text messages that showed tension between Pistorius and Steenkamp in an attempt to prove that Pistorius had a motive to kill his girlfriend, while the defence submitted messages that indicated mutual affection.

That evidence, the judge said, doesn't prove anything.

"Normal relationships are dynamic and unpredictable most of the time, while human beings are fickle," she said.

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