A South African judge has found star runner Oscar Pistorius not guilty of premeditated murder.
Despite characterizing Pistorius as an unreliable witness, the judge said there were not enough facts to support a verdict of premeditated murder. He has also been cleared of common law murder.
Pistorius is accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day of last year. Pistorius claimed he mistook her for a burglar, but prosecutors argued he shot Steenkamp intentionally as the result of an argument.
Judge Thokozile Masipa could still find the South African athlete guilty of culpable homicide (manslaughter), meaning he did not intend to kill Steenkamp, but his actions were negligent.
Pistorius was facing charges of premeditated murder, firing a gun in a public space, and illegally possessing ammunition. His trial spanned about six months, and 37 witnesses testified.
During trial, Pistorius claimed that he fired four shots through a locked bathroom door at his Pretoria home because he thought Steenkamp was an intruder. He said he woke up and heard a noise in the bathroom, remembered there were no bars on the bathroom windows, and thought contractors working on the property had left ladders outside. He said he assumed Steenkamp was still in bed next to him.
But neighbors who testified at the trial said they heard arguing and a woman screaming at Pistorius’ house the night Steenkamp died. And in a text conversation just weeks before she died, Steenkamp told Pistorius that she’s “scared of [him] sometimes.”
The burden was on the prosecution was to prove that Pistorius meant to kill Steenkamp. As The Independent points out, they had to show that their version of events “is the only version of events that can possibly be true.”