Criminal Justice

Oscar Pistorius acted 'unlawfully,' but he isn't guilty of premeditated murder, judge says

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Oscar Pistorius. Featureflash

Updated: A judge in South Africa said Thursday that track star Oscar Pistorius acted “unlawfully” in the shooting death of his girlfriend last year, but he wasn’t guilty of premeditated murder.

Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa said the charge of culpable homicide still must be considered, but she didn’t decide that issue before breaking for lunch and then adjourning the case, report the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN. A culpable homicide charge, the equivalent of manslaughter, gives the judge wide discretion in sentencing.

Pistorius also faces a charge of possessing ammunition without the proper license for it, and gun charges for allegedly firing a gun at a restaurant and out of a car sunroof, CNN says. Masipa will resume the proceedings on Friday.

Pistorius had testified in April that he fired four shots at a closed bathroom door on Valentine’s Day 2013 because he thought an intruder was inside. A psychiatrist testified that Pistorius suffers from an anxiety disorder that makes the athlete feel his safety is threatened even when he is objectively safe.

Masipa said an intention to shoot doesn’t necessarily mean an intent to kill, according to the CNN account. She also said she believed a scream heard by witnesses was that of Pistorius, not Steenkamp, an indication the judge accepted the defense timeline of events. The defense had argued the shots came before the scream.

Masipa said text messages showing discord in the relationship between Pistorius and his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp don’t prove anything, the New York Times says. “Normal relationships are dynamic,” Masipa said. “Human beings are fickle.”

After the lunch break, Masipa said Pistorius was negligent and had used excessive force. According to the Post, the comment appears to indicate that Masipa will find Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide when the case resumes on Friday.

According to the Times, Pistorius “slumped forward and sobbed” while Masipa spoke about her findings.

Updated at 7:50 a.m. to state that the case has been adjourned until Friday and at 8 a.m. to state that Masipa said Pistorius was negligent.

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