Judge Masipa finds Oscar Pistorius not guilty of premeditated murder.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Good morning:

Judge Masipa has been summarizing the evidence in a manner that suggests she may conclude that Oscar Pistorius is guilty of culpable (i.e., negligent) homicide, which is punishable by a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

I base my prediction on the following comments, as reported by The Guardian:

1. Judge accepts defence timeline of events and rejects neighbours’ evidence.

2. It “makes sense” that screaming was Pistorius, not Steenkamp.

After finding that Pistorius “was a very poor witness,” she warned that “an assumption that because an accused is untruthful, he must be guilty, “must be guarded against.”

Masipa says Steenkamp was killed under “peculiar circumstances” that do not make sense. Why did Pistorius not check where she was before making his way to the bathroom? Why did Steenkamp not call the police, as Pistorius said he shouted to her to do, as she had her cellphone with her in the toilet?

Why did Steenkamp not hear him shout “at the top of his voice” for the intruder to get out of his house?

Unfortunately, this issues remain an issue of conjecture, the judge says.

Masipa says Pistorius was “not truthful” about his intention when arming himself with a loaded gun before approaching the bathroom. This doesn’t necessarily mean he is guilty, she adds.

On the count of premeditated murder, the judge says the evidence is “purely circumstantial”.

Masipa says state failed to prove that Pistorius is guilty of pre-meditated murder.

Join us in the comments.

55 Responses to Judge Masipa finds Oscar Pistorius not guilty of premeditated murder.

  1. Breaking News. Guilty of culpable homicide. She walked him on all of the gun charges.

  2. fauxmccoy says:

    livestream if anyone else is awake


    • I am fauxmccoy. I am in Ohio. The verdict is in.

      • fauxmccoy says:

        yup. as i expected. i found it very interesting to hear the judge voice all the things that i would consider if i were a juror. i realize that based on a variety of factors, that the tribunal system of judgement is likely most suitable for south africa, but i had no idea what to expect here at the verdict phase. how very different from our own system, yet very interesting too. i found myself agreeing with her logic, reasoning and judgement.

  3. ay2z says:

    Comments from SA legal community, one comment says opens the door to abuse of the legal system by those who kill their partners and claim self-defense.

    Anyone notice also that Judge Masipa said she considered the type of firearm and CALIBRE of ammunition. Calibre is size, did she not consider the ‘zombie stopping’ ability of a black talon bullet?


  4. ay2z says:

    vheck out this reaction from the retired high court judge in SA, previously from Zimbabwe. I think that means he was shocked at Judge Masipa’s decision for the admitted killer vs Reeva.

  5. fauxmccoy says:

    this was about what i was expecting. i do not blame judge masipa from discarding evidence of the neighbors. they were all pretty bad witnesses for the state. i have also been the lone voice here that as great as nel was on cross examination, that his case in chief was not that impressive. i tend to think the judge is making the right decision here and am content to be alone with such thoughts.

    hope things are looking up for you and crane, prof.

    • Malisha says:

      I can agree that the proof beyond a reasonable doubt was not really presented about the theory that Pistorius had a fight with Steenkamp and then killed her in a rage while she cowered and screamed in the bathroom. It could NOT be presented since the only witness other than the liar was already dead. I believe I know what happened but I agree with the judge that proof the defendant lied is not equal to proof that he DID a crime that he is not admitting while he is lying.

      • fauxmccoy says:


        i assume that my support for battered women remains unquestioned, as it has been my life’s work for many years and remains dear to my heart in my disability.

        in this case, i considered most of the things that judge masipa did in arriving to a conclusion, but beyond that considered more. reeva steenkamp was a very smart woman, a lawyer in fact, prior to becoming a model and dating pistorius. at no time prior to this incident did she alert any friend or family member of any hint of abuse. no friend nor family member came forward during the trial to speak of ill hid bruises or other signs of abuse. no electronic media documented any abuse, no self photos or documents. absolutely no indication of prior abuse existed.

        i do not consider nicole brown simpson to have been the brightest bulb, but even she left a record trail of oj’s abuse. written and photographic records were found in her safe deposit box and her sister was aware of damage done.

        think about this, please, no evidence exists whatsoever that pistorius is violent with women, physically or even in any other way that i can identify as a court appointed expert in the matter. no past girlfriend can offer any testimony other than that sometimes he is short tempered or sometimes he can raise his voice. what human has not done these things?

        it would be highly unusual indeed for a person who shows no sign of being a domestic abuser to kill in a premeditated manner a domestic partner as the very first sign of abuse. i do not see it, gerrie nel did not prove it, and judge marsipa did not buy so much as an argument occurring that evening and not because one of the couple was dead, but because the evidence in chief was so bad.

        is pistorius a self important, self absorbed prick? oh yeah. does he have any history of domestic violence, absolutely not. i do not even understand why it is so important for folks here to want it to be the case that he is guilty of anything more than what we would call manslaughter.

        as far as i am aware, i am the only one who commented on viewing the entire case in chief. not one other person here has claimed to have seen it, much less commented on it, but minds are made up. i struggle to understand, truly, as i thought this blog was about justice.

  6. Hey! Check out these photos of Bardarbunga, the erupting Icelandic volcano.

  7. ay2z says:

    From the courtroom, the Pistorius family was tense, the Steenkamps and Reeva’s friends, seemed just stunned.

    • ay2z says:

      and, all or nothing defense cost much time and money, opened the door to Pistorius’s testimony and the murder charges possibilities, and all could have been saved had the defense sought a plea early enough, for culpable homicide. (Roux did say in closing that this was the charge to bring so are they are begging for a last minute opportunity to plea, if their client has seen the light).

  8. ay2z says:

    Is there a chance or requirement for PIstorius to plea for sentencing considerations? Will that possibly happen tomorrow morning, and will he have to adequately admit/explain to the judge before she accepts it?

    Pistorius’s resistance to admiting to anything, has been the rub. Maybe now he will help himself by taking that step forward.

    • I think that step would be viewed as manipulative, rather than genuine, since she has unambiguously signaled what her decision will be.

      • ay2z says:

        Yes, that makes sense, manipulation. Thanks. Will be interesting tomorrow, and if the judge reveals how much time she will allow the defense before sentencing. And the issue of bail, if he is guilty of culpable homicide, he may not automatically be granted a continuation of bail.

        • ay2z says:

          ( he has liquidated assets, sold race horses, sold two homes plus the one he was living in)

        • Flight risk and dangerousness increase with a homicide conviction and in the US would almost always result in an order remanding the defendant into custody pending sentencing.

          Judges don’t want to risk public vilification if the defendant rabbits on the bond and figure the defendant might as well get started on serving the sentence. Defendants get credit for time served prior to sentencing.

  9. Keep in mind that judges can and often do do find ways to get to the result they want to reach.

    For example, would you prefer a verdict of guilty on the premeditated murder charge that might not withstand an appeal versus a verdict of guilty of culpable homicide that is bullet-proof on appeal, especially when the sentences on the slam dunk weapons and ammo charges can be adjusted or stacked to impose the same sentence that would have been imposed on the premeditated murder charge?

    • bettykath says:

      I’m not surprised of not guilty of premeditated murder. There just wasn’t enough evidence for it beyond a reasonable doubt imo. He is someone who needs to be off the streets. There is no doubt he did the killing and it was not a reasonable act. I have no doubt.

      • I suspect Pistorius has a serious alcohol problem and I would not be the least bit surprised to discover that he was impaired by alcohol when he shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp.

        • bettykath says:

          could be. but they didn’t test him did they? All participants in a shooting should be tested for drugs and alcohol.

          • Obtaining a saliva, urine or blood sample from a suspect is a search. Unless the suspect voluntarily agrees to provide the sample, the cops would have to apply for a search warrant by demonstrating probable cause to believe the suspect committed a particular crime while impaired.

            DUI cases are subject to a different rule regarding breath samples because operating a motor vehicle is a privilege and not a right and our privilege to drive is conditioned on providing a breath sample when requested by an officer who has probable cause to believe a suspect is impaired by alcohol.

      • Malisha says:

        The problem with the premeditated murder charge is that we all rationally KNOW what he did but it cannot be PROVEN.

  10. girlp says:

    So he will go through another court for his other weapon charges?

  11. And there you have it:

    Guilty of culpable homicide.

    Which she will announce tomorrow.

  12. Masipa says Pistorius acted “too hastily and used excessive force … It is clear his conduct was negligent.”

    And with that, court adjourns for the day.

  13. Judge: ‘A reasonable person would not have fired four shots into the toilet cubicle’

    Masipa says that if Pistorius had woken to see a “silhouette” by his bed and shot that figure, even if it turned out to be Steenkamp, he would have acted reasonably.

    But she does not think a reasonable person would have fired four shots into the toilet cubicle. A reasonable person would have foreseen that the person inside could have been struck and could have died.

    • ay2z says:

      She gave her verdict away at this point, a clear message to Pistorius.

    • tblue says:

      If I ever woke up to find a silhouette by my bed, my “reasonable” response would not be to start shooting. I would check first to make sure it was not a member of the family–as I think any “reasonable” person would do!

  14. Masipa: I agree that the conduct of the accused may be better understood by looking at his background.

    However, the explanation of the conduct of the accused is just that: an explanation. It does not excuse the conduct of the accused.

    Many [people] have been victims of violent crimes but they have not resorted to sleeping with firearms under their pillows.

  15. She says Pistorius could have picked up his phone and called the police or security. He could have run to his balcony and screamed for help.

    There was no reason why he could not do so before he ventured into the bathroom with a loaded firearm.

  16. Masipa says background, education, sex, race and culture of the accused must be taken into account when considering the reasonableness of his actions.

    She says the defence tried to persuade the court that his disability rendered him so vulnerable that his acquiring of the firearm could not be called negligent. The judge says millions of people could fit into this category.

  17. Masipa does not explain the delay. She starts right away with discussion of culpable homicide and negligence. The criminal test relies on whether a reasonable person in the same circumstances have foreseen the possible consequences.

  18. Judge Masipa is – after a rather longer break than expected – back to deal with the question of culpable homicide (manslaughter).

    • ay2z says:

      Longer break? Did she know where shew as going to end off for the day (priming her section on culpabe homicide with case examples and preamble, leaving off after a clear direction of where she could be going so that lawyers and the accused could consider their options before tomorrow morning when she would bring down verdicts for homicide and the other acnillary gun related charges. She could give him a lot of years if she really wanted. Maybe giving him one last chance to take responsibility for more than just the last minute Tasha’s shooting taken by Roux on his behalf).

  19. Barry Roux and Gerrie Nel have now returned to the courtroom. Hopefully Judge Masipa is not far behind.

  20. andrew harding ✔ @BBCAndrewH

    Prosecution and defence lawyers called to Judge’s chambers… a question of timings, or of substance, or something else?

    • ay2z says:

      Something else? Like the timing for the accused’s chance to admit, to benefit sentencing considerations perhaps? “Talk to your client tonight boys….”??

  21. From the Guardian:

    There is much discussion – in court and online – about the judge’s interpretation of dolus eventualis: whether, in firing four shots into the door, Pistorius should have foreseen the possibility that he would kill the person behind it. Masipa ruled that there was not evidence to show that he did.

  22. Also key to understanding her verdict is the South African rule that a verdict may not be based on circumstantial evidence alone unless the evidence is inconsistent with any other conclusion.

    This used to be the rule in most jurisdictions in the US but has gradually been rejected as a comment on the evidence, which is forbidden by most state constitutions.

    Instead, most instructions tell the jury that evidence is either direct or circumstantial and one is not necessarily better or more reliable than the other. It’s up to the jury to decide how much weight to assign to the evidence.

  23. Keep in mind that there is a difference between forming an opinion about what really happened and deciding whether the state overcame the presumption of innocence by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

    That difference is the key to understanding this verdict.

  24. Members of the African National Congress Women’s League are protesting outside the courthouse.

    One sign: “If you kill a woman, you are killing a nation.”

    Are you listening Ray Rice and others like you?

  25. Court adjourns for lunch after Judge Masipa rules out premeditated and intentional murder.

    Looks like she may find him guilty of culpable homicide.

    Pins-and-needles time.

    • ay2z says:

      Yes, will she continue with the scolding then give him a pass?

      What political inflluences might be at play, if any. I don’t believe that Judge Masipa would easily go soft on a killer and forgive his actions as she has described just before today’s adjournment, unless there was another way to work around this.

      One way could be a guilty vertict for culpable homicide then using her latitude in sentencing (if the defense doesn’t mitigate that down to a slap on the hands).

      Masipa may also recognize the time taken for this one case, when so many others are standing wating in line for jjustice. (the video in yesterday’s thread about women judges, showed a clip that emphasises this, young girls, young boys raped, waiting in long lines for justice).

      • You ask thoughtful questions and make excellent points, but I am hesitant to respond to them because I would be speculating about people I do not know and a system of unwritten rules with which I am not familiar.

        In federal court in the US, a defendant can get a 2 or 3 point reduction from the base offense level for acceptance of responsibility, but it must be genuine and come before trial. I imagine but do not know if SA has a similar rule.

  26. Masipa: The question is now whether Pistorius proceeded “recklessly”, with reasonable foresight that the person behind the door would be killed?

    She says the answer has to be no.

    • bettykath says:

      I’d like to hear her rationale for this. Did he expect to just wound the intruder?

      • ay2z says:

        bettykath, her rational specifically excluded consideration of the type of firearm and the type of ammunition used by Pistorius. That was not used by Masipa to bolster the lethal potential of the gun and bullets which she later referred to as a ‘lethal’ firearm or weapon.

        Of course Pistorius knew there was every chance he would hit the person, but taking out the extra explosive action of these bullets when they hit a victim from the picture, she was I guess, effectively not putting words in his mouth as to his thoughts when he fired. Masipa did mention that only Pistorius could know what he was thinking.

        Maybe that’s what she was guarding against, any interpretation of Pistorius’s words that he did not intend to kill anyone and using that against him by the ‘more lethal’ power of his killing tools.

        Because someone lies, does not make them more or less guilty and maybe this was her rationale, at least in part.

  27. Masipa says evidence does not support the state’s case that this was dolus eventualis (he must have known he was likely to kill the person by firing). He believed Steenkamp was in the bedroom. Pistorius’ account of this has remained consistent since the night of the shooting. It is “highly improbable the accused would have made this up so quickly”.

  28. Masipa: There is no doubt that when the accused fired shots at the door he acted unlawfully.

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