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Oscar Pistorius Found Not Guility In Girlfriend's Shooting Death


Olympian Oscar Pistorius, who shot and killed his girlfriend last year, has been found not guilty of premeditated murder. That's what South African judge Thokozile Masipa said today when she read out a portion of her ruling.


THOKOZILE MASIPA: I am of the view that the accused acted too hastily and used excessive force. In the circumstances, it is clear that his conduct was negligent.

CORNISH: But that isn't the end of her judgment. In a dramatic turn, the judge halted proceedings before making a ruling on a lesser charge, culpable homicide. Joining us from South Africa is the BBC's Audrey Brown, who's been following the case. She joins us from a cafe in Johannesburg.

Welcome to the program, Audrey.

AUDREY BROWN, BYLINE: Thank you very much.

CORNISH: So what did the judge have to say? Tell us more about what she said about why Pistorius was not found guilty.

BROWN: The judge made very clear that she was not going to rely on the evidence of various witnesses. She said that she believed that even though they were not deliberately misleading the court, they did rely on memory, which is fallible as you know, human beings are. And so she said she's going to rely on a timeline that had been established by technology and by forensic evidence. So for instance, phone records that indicated clearly, you know, when Oscar Pistorius made the first call, who that call was to, you know. And there was one witness that she felt in particular was more reliable than the others because she said when that witness walked in, he was one of the first people to walk in as Oscar Pistorius was carrying the almost certainly lifeless body of Reeva Steenkamp down the stairs. He was absolutely beside himself with grief and you know, he was distraught. And I think that, for me, was the first indication that she was probably going to dismiss the initial charges; the strongest charges that the state had brought against Oscar.

CORNISH: And we should remind people here that there is no jury in this case. This is all on the judge. And as you said, she did not indicate that she thought this was premeditated. But help us understand this culpable homicide. What does that mean?

BROWN: I must just point out that the judge actually, in this particular instance, had two assessors. And they basically help the judge to sift through the evidence. They bring particular expertise to the court as well. As to culpable homicide, which is essentially saying that you negligently caused the death of a person - the unlawful death of a person. So that's what the judge will be discussing when she continues delivering her verdict or, as we say in South Africa, handing down judgment.

CORNISH: So much has been made of the reactions of Oscar Pistorius in the courtroom over the course of trial. What was he like today?

BROWN: While the judge was reading her sentence and while, you know - when she was delivering judgment on the charge of murder, Oscar Pistorius was sobbing. He was sobbing uncontrollably. You know, he basically almost melted into a puddle of grief.

CORNISH: You've been also reporting throughout the day on reactions around the country. You're at a cafe now. What have you been hearing from people?

BROWN: People were stunned. They were surprised. And they were extremely vocal in expressing their surprise. And, you know, in a case like this where it's had its own special channel on radio and on television, you know, everybody is now a legal expert. Everybody speaks with great ease, you know, about dolus directus and dolus eventualis and it must be this, and it must be that. You know, we've become a nation of legal experts.

CORNISH: The BBC's Audrey Brown in Johannesburg. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

BROWN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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