SHAFAQNA – The judge in Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial said the Paralympian’s testimony that he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp as an involuntary reflex was “inconsistent” with his other statements to the court.
Pistorius gave different explanations about why he fired at the door in his bathroom in his Pretoria home on Valentine’s Day last year, Judge Thokozile Masipa told the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital. He testified at one point that he fired without thinking and at another that he was shooting at someone he believed was about to attack or kill him.
“He stated that if he wanted to shoot the intruder, he would have shot higher up and more in the direction of where the opening of the door would be to the far right of the door and at chest height,” she said. “I pause to state that this assertion is inconsistent with that of someone who shot without thinking.”
If found guilty of planning to kill Steenkamp, Pistorius would face a minimum of 25 years in jail, while a verdict of murder without premeditation may carry a sentence of at least 15 years. A culpable homicide decision could mean as many as 15 years in prison.
Should the judge agree with the defense’s contention that the shooting was a reflex and the Paralympian lacked cognitive capacity, he could face a lesser sentence or even acquittal.
Earlier, Masipa, 66, said she discounted the witnesses who testified that they heard a woman scream after the four shots Pistorius fired at a door in his bathroom, saying because of the gravity of her wounds, Steenkamp wouldn’t have been able to shout and shriek. Some of them were also too far away.
“I am of the view that the probability is that some witnesses failed to separate what they knew personally, from what they heard from other people or from what they gathered from the media,” she said.
Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius, 27, was the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics. He’s been free on 1 million rand ($91,500) bail since February last year. If found guilty, Pistorius’s bail will be revoked and he will have to submit a new application, according to Ulrich Roux, a director at Johannesburg-based BDK Attorneys.
The charges have derailed the running career of the winner of six Paralympic gold medals and cost Pistorius sponsorship deals with Nike Inc. (NKE) and Luxottica Group SpA (LUX)’s Oakley. He sold his home in Pretoria in May.
While the prosecution argues that Pistorius deliberately fired four hollow-point bullets at Steenkamp in a bathroom at his home after an argument, the defense says he mistook her for an intruder, and her death was a “huge, unfortunate mistake.”
Masipa said she would rely on phone records rather than the witnesses to give an objective time line of the shooting.
She also rejected the state’s presentation of WhatsApp Inc. messages between Pistorius and Steenkamp showing they had argued, and from the defense indicating they were in a loving relationship.
“None of this proves anything,” she said.
If the verdict is guilty, the state and defense teams will request time to compile evidence for sentencing, which will probably be six to 12 weeks after the verdict, Marius du Toit, a criminal-defense lawyer based in Pretoria, said in an interview.
The athlete has also pleaded not guilty to three separate gun-related charges, which include firing a weapon in a restaurant and shooting out of a car. He could face sentences ranging from as many as five years to a fine for each count.
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