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Cleared Of Murder, Pistorius Found Guilty Of Culpable Homicide


The former Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of the killing of his girlfriend. He was cleared yesterday of murder charges by a South African judge. She found him instead guilty of culpable homicide - that is the equivalent of manslaughter. Pistorius shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, through a closed door on Valentine's Day of 2013 and has always maintained he mistook her for an intruder. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports.


THOKOZILE MASIPA: The accused is found not guilty and is discharged. Instead he's found guilty of culpable homicide.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: In court in Pretoria, Judge Thokozile Masipa delivering her verdict in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius. She concluded that the prosecution had failed to convince the court that the athlete intended to kill anyone. Today's verdict suggests the judge believed Pistorius's version of events. Pistorius stood to hear the judge's verdict, with his head slightly bowed. The prosecution alleged that on Valentine's Day last year, he shot dead his girlfriend, Steenkamp, in the toilet in his home after an argument.

The double amputee athlete denied murdering her, saying he shot her by mistake. The judge agreed with this saying, it cannot be said that the accused did not entertain a genuine belief that there was an intruder. But Judge Masipa also said that Pistorius knew there was a person behind the toilet door and chose to use a firearm. She says he acted too hastily and used too much force, calling this clearly negligent conduct in handling a gun. But the judge said the prosecution's case was not watertight.


MASIPA: Evidence led by the state in respect of this count was purely circumstantial. The evidence of various witnesses, who gave evidence on what they heard in what sequence and when, proved to be unreliable.

QUIST-ARCTON: During the trial, a darker side was revealed of the pin-up poster boy of Paralympic athletics. It suggested that Pistorius had a fetish for firearms and an obsession with guns. The judge today found him guilty of the illegal discharge of a gun in a restaurant and that leads Adele Kirsten of Gun Free South Africa to repeat that there are simply too many guns in her country - a never-ending debate in South Africa as it is in the U.S.

ADELE KIRSTEN: There's a sort of strong cultural and historical attachment to firearms in this country. So I think this trial has raised awareness on the lethality of guns. That how easy it is to pull the trigger and the risks of having a gun in the home.

QUIST-ARCTON: In court the discussion about bail for Pistorius continued. Defense counsel asked for immediate bail, the prosecution says Pistorius should not be allowed to walk out of the court and should be held in custody while the judge decides on sentencing. A conviction for culpable homicide carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years - down to a suspended sentence, so the judge's discretion is key. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton NPR News, Accra. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton
Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.