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BREAKING: Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of culpable homicide.

Oscar Pistorius.

Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of culpable homicide in relation to the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

“I am of the view that the accused acted too hastily and used excessive force,” Justice Masipa said as she completed her two-day long judgment.

“In the circumstances, it is clear that his conduct was negligent… On the facts of this case I am not persuaded that a reasonable person with the accused’s disabilities in the same circumstances would have fired four shots into that small toilet cubicle.”

The former Olympian was also found guilty on one count of firearms charges, in relation to a shooting at Tasha’s Restaurant.

He was acquitted of all other charges, including those relating to a now infamous incident in which Pistorius was accused of shooting through a car’s sunroof.

Culpable homicide is defined under South African law as the “unlawful negligent killing of another human being”. It is similar to the charge of manslaughter under Australian law.

The proceedings will now be adjourned and Pistorius will be sentenced in a separate hearing.

The maximum penalty for culpable homicide is 15 years. There is no minimum penalty.

He could face an additional five years jail in relation to the other offence.

Under South African law, sentencing hearings operate similarly to a full trial, with prosecutors now expected to call members of Reeva’s family to present their case for a strong sentence. The defence are expected to call psychiatric experts to argue for a reduced sentence.

Mamamia reported after day one of the sentencing…

Oscar Pistorius has been found not guilty of the premeditated murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

He has to wait until tonight, though, to learn his fate on other charges including the lesser charge of culpable homicide.

The verdict was handed down Thursday by Judge Thokozile Masipa after a six-month trial in the High Court of South Africa, in the city of Pretoria.

Pistorius held back tears as the judge gave her verdict.

Judge Maspia said she believes Pistorius thought Steenkamp was an intruder. The judge also said while Pistorius intended to shoot,  this does not equal an intention to kill.

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Pistorius still faces a verdict on the charge of culpable homicide. Culpable homicide, the South African version of manslaughter, focuses on negligence rather than intent.

Judge Thokozile Masipa adjourned the court  just seconds after saying key elements of the culpable homicide charge were satisfied when he shot Steenkamp dead on Valentine’s Day last year.

“I am of the view that the accused acted too hastily and used excessive force. It is clear that his conduct was negligent,” she told the courtroom before adjourning. She also said he had not acted “reasonably”.

There is no prescribed sentence for culpable homicide in South Africa; the sentence can be decided at the discretion of the judge.

The court is now adjourned – and will reconvene this evening.

Pistorius’ family was in attendance in court, as were Reeva Steenkamp’s parents. Steenkamp’s family appeared taken aback as the judge ruled out murder.

You can learn more about some of the key pieces of evidence in the Pistorius trial in this post.

Legal analysis

The judge delivering her verdict yesterday. (Photo by Kim Ludbrook/EPA/Gallo Image/Getty Images)

Pumza Fihlani from BBC News, wrote that the Judge seems to be leaning towards the lesser charge of manslaughter or culpable homicide. Judge Masipa said Pistorius who has a good knowledge of guns, acted negligently by firing four shots into a confined space.

Fihlani wrote “She questioned why he did not phone for help or run to the balcony instead of confronting the apparent danger – questions that have plagued many.

Following a long trial that has gripped people around the world, Judge Masipa seems to want to give a detailed account before announcing her verdict. South Africa’s legal system has also been on trial and many believe the athlete is getting off lightly, possibly because of his fame.

But legal experts argue that the judge has merely followed the law and the evidence before her. The onus was on the state to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, which the judge said it had failed to do.”

The trial

The trial began on March 3, 2014 and heard 37 witnesses in total.

Defense lawyer Barry Roux painted the picture of a vulnerable athlete with a disability who fired the shots out of genuine fear for his life — and Pistorius was reduced to tears a number of times throughout the trial, at one point vomiting into a bucket.

His emotional reaction caused the court to be adjourned on multiple occasions.

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The prosecution entered into evidence four negative text messages between Pistorius and Steenkamp extracted from the paralympian’s phone, using them to paint a picture of a possessive often abusive boyfriend who accused Ms Steenkamp of flirting with other men.

In messages just two weeks before her death, Steenkamp wrote: “I’m scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and of how you will react to me.”

The text Steenkamp sent to Pistorius weeks before her death.

Multiple witnesses also reported they remember “blood-curdling screams” coming from the Pistorius home in the early hours of the morning on February 14, 2013.

During the trial, Pistorius went through a 30-day psychiatric evaluation, which ultimately concluded that Pistorius understood his actions on the night Steenkamp died.

See photos of yesterday’s trial here:

 

Steenkamp: a “passionate, longtime advocate” for women’s rights

Reeva Steenkamp was a 29-year-old model and law graduate from Cape Town.

Reeva Steenkamp.

Steenkamp had previously been involved in an abusive relationship and had become an advocate for women’s rights before her death.

“It’s ironic that Reeva Steenkamp lost her life at the hands of a man with a gun,” Vanity Fair reports. “She and her mother were passionate, longtime advocates for women suffering from violence and abuse.”

Steenkamp was also reportedly due to deliver a speech at a high school urging young girls not to give in to emotional abuse.

“Reeva was going to tell her young school audience how important it was to be loved by others, not for your physical appearance but for who you are,” CBS News reports.

Notes made by Steenkamp reveal she was due to warn the Johannesburg students: “No matter how many people say that they ‘love’ you, if you do not love your person then you will never step outside of the physical you,” The Daily Mail reports.

CBS News reports Steenkamp had planned to close her remarks by urging the girls to ‘Be brave, always see the positive’ and to ‘Go home and tell your parents, siblings, neighbours that they are appreciated’.”

Our thoughts are with Reeva Steenkamp’s family and friends.

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