Oscar Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide over the 2013 Valentine’s Day shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, South African Judge Thokozile Masipa said Friday. Pistorius was also found guilty of a count of discharging a firearm in public, but was acquitted of the first count involving a separate firearm discharge incident.
A culpable homicide charge carries with it a maximum sentence of 15 years, according to South African law. Pistorius was also acquitted of the charge of illegal possession of ammunition. On Thursday, Pistorius was cleared of all murder charges by Masipa who pronounced that the case presented by the prosecution was based entirely on "circumstantial evidence" and that the state did not prove "beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder."
Later on Friday, Pistorius was granted bail until the sentencing, which has been scheduled for Oct. 13, Masipa announced in court. The judge also said that if there was any misconduct on Pistorius' part before the sentencing, the state could appeal to cancel his bail. Pistorius, who reportedly sold off his house to pay for the trial, will continue living at an uncle's house.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel had argued that Pistorius should not be granted bail and refuted the defense's claims that the double amputee had sold off property to pay for the court hearing.
“I do disagree with (Barry) Roux, and am of the view that this is a serious case, he was convicted of a very serious case, he caused the death of an innocent woman, even negligently... makes the imposition of a lengthy imprisonment probable,” Nel told the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Friday.
Pistorius admitted that he fired the shots that killed Steenkamp on Feb. 14, 2013, but claimed that he thought an intruder had broken into their home and was threatening his life.
In the first part of her ruling Thursday, the judge described Pistorius as "a very poor witness", saying that he was able to maintain his composure during questioning by his defense attorneys, but fell apart when he faced hostile questions.
There are no juries in trials in South Africa, so the judge, assisted by two legal assessors is the sole arbiter of Pistorius' innocence or guilt.
Pistorius, 27, has stood on trial since March 3 for shooting and killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Feb. 14, 2013, in a case that has transfixed South Africa for more than half a year. From the start, it’s received extensive media coverage, including a 24-hour TV channel on South Africa’s top cable provider that was created solely to cover the case.
Before Pistorius found himself at the center of a murder trial, he was a beloved athlete in South Africa, and an inspiring sprinter worldwide. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Pistorius, nicknamed the "Blade Runner," gained international fame as a double amputee competing in the 400 meters race. He would fail to reach the finals of the event, but his attempt at Olympic glory became a major story of the Games.
It was a quick fall from grace after the Olympics, as Pistorius was accused of murder just over six months later. He was released on bail eight days after shooting Steenkamp, but not before a frenzy of international attention.
Steenkamp died in the early hours of Valentine's Day in the sprinter’s South African home. Shortly after 3 a.m., Pistorius fired four gunshots at his girlfriend through a locked toilet door, killing the 29-year-old model and aspiring lawyer almost instantly. Pistorius claims that he thought he was shooting at an intruder, and fired to protect himself and his girlfriend, whom he thought was asleep in bed.