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Judge adjourns Pistorius ruling on a cliffhanger

The judge wrapped up for the day saying Pistorius acted negligently, too hastily and used excessive force.

Oscar Pistorius cries while seated in the dock during judgment in his murder trial in Pretoria on 11 September 2014. Picture: Pool.

PRETORIA - Judge Thokozile Masipa has found that murder accused Oscar Pistorius acted negligently, too hastily and used excessive force on the morning of 14 February, 2013 when he shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp.

Masipa began handing down judgment today in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in one of the most highly-anticipated court rulings in the country's legal history.

The judge postponed proceedings until 9:30 tomorrow morning.

She said the court must use the test of the reasonable man to determine whether Pistorius was negligent or not.

"Would a reasonable person in the same circumstances as the accused have foreseen the consequences of his action?"

Masipa said Pistorius could have run to the balcony and screamed if he felt threatened by a perceived intruder. He could also have called estate security.

"There was no explanation why the accused didn't call security before arming himself and going to the bathroom.

"He could have run to the balcony and called for help like he did after the incident."

The judge also referred to his disability, but said many others lived under similar circumstances.

"I am of the view that the accused acted too hastily and used excessive force. He acted negligently."

She also referred to the lack of security bars on the bathroom, but said he should have called for help.

"A reasonable person with the accused's disability, and in his position, would have foreseen that if he fired shots at the door, the person inside the toilet might be struck and might die as a result."

She said the conduct of the accused could be explained by looking at his past. But that this did not excuse his conduct.

"Many people suffer from crime but not everyone sleeps with a firearm under their bed."

She said if the athlete woke and found someone over him and opened fire that would have been excusable conduct.

"I'm not persuaded that a reasonable person with the same circumstances would have shot into the cubicle. The accused knew there was a person behind the door, he chose to use his firearm."

She also took a rather lengthy lunch break and then only proceeded for another 20 minutes, postponing proceedings until tomorrow.

The judge is expected to deliver her verdict tomorrow based on her findings read out today and also go into detail about the three gun-related charges faced by Pistorius.

REACTION

Pistorius was greeted with cheering outside the court today, with many of his supporters relieved by the outcome of today's proceedings.

While legal experts, members of the media and ordinary members of the public have been taken by surprise by the judgment so far.

Many didn't expect Masipa to indicate so quickly that Pistorius is likely to be convicted of culpable homicide.

ANC Women's League members outside the court said the judgment so far was concerning and they were hopeful Pistorius would be found guilty of culpable homicide.

When Masipa ruled out the murder charge, people watching the trial at a nearby restaurant reacted with shock, with many questioning it.

But some legal experts said Masipa's judgment seems logical and fair so far.

At the Steenkamp family's Eastern Cape pub, the Barking Spider, people have been sitting in the bar closely following the proceedings on TV screens.

Close friends of the Steenkamp family told Eyewitness News they were furious about the judgment, saying they haad lost hope in the justice system.

MASIPA RULES OUT PREMEDITATED MURDER, MURDER

Earlier, Masipa cleared Pistorius of all murder charges, saying Pistorius could not be found guilty of murder dolus eventualis.

"Clearly he did not subjectively foresee this as a possibility that he would kill the person behind the door, let alone the deceased as he thought she was in the bedroom," Masipa told a packed court, as tears streamed down Pistorius's face.

"The accused therefore cannot be found guilty of murder dolus eventualis. That, however, is not the end of the matter as culpable homicide is a competent verdict."

This came after she ruled out premeditated murder, saying the state had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Pistorius meant to kill Steenkamp.

She said the state failed to show direct intention, let alone premeditation.

Masipa said the timeline of events tipped the scales in favour of the accused's version.

But she said the accused was not truthful when asked what his intention was when he armed himself.

"He was not truthful about intentions. He was not candid with the court when he said he did not have intention to shoot."

The judge said another question is why the accused fired four shots and not just one.

"The deceased was killed in peculiar circumstances. Why did the accused not ascertain her location?"

For more on the trial, click here, or visit the live Oscar Pistorius blog, click here.

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