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Masipa: Pistorius's disability no excuse for his actions

She indicated Pistorius may be convicted of culpable homicide but will only hand down her verdict tomorrow.

Cellphone image showing paralympian Oscar Pistorius leaving the High Court in Pretoria on Thursday, 11 September 2014. Picture: Sapa.

PRETORIA - Judge Thokozile Masipa says Oscar Pistorius's disability is no excuse for his actions when he shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp as there are many vulnerable groups in the country.

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.

Only the second black woman to rise to the bench in South Africa, Masipa read out her verdict calmly and seemingly impervious to the global interest in a case that has drawn comparisons to the 1995 murder trial of American football star OJ Simpson.

The judge postponed proceedings until 9:30 tomorrow morning.

Pistorius, the double amputee who became one of the biggest names in athletics, shot dead his model and law graduate girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year.

Since the news first broke on the morning of 14 February last year, the case has gripped millions around the world who saw Pistorius as the embodiment of triumph over adversity, a man whose lower legs were amputated as a baby but who reached the semi-finals of the 400 metres at the London Olympics in 2012.

Masipa indicated that Pistorius may be convicted of culpable homicide but will only hand down her verdict tomorrow.

She said the court had found that Pistorius acted hastily and with excessive force when he shot and killed Steenkamp.

Pistorius's legal team spent a large amount of time arguing that the athlete could not be found guilty because he was vulnerable due to his disability.

Masipa said she took this into consideration, but she disagreed.

The judge said many people were subjected to crime in this country and felt vulnerable for a variety of reasons.

She also said Pistorius was a poor and evasive witness who lost composure under cross-examination and even contradicted his legal team's arguments.

At the same time, she said he couldn't have foreseen that opening fire at the bathroom door would have resulted in someone being killed.

Pistorius was ushered away from the court soon after proceedings were adjourned this afternoon.

Pistorius was driven to his uncle Arnold's house in Waterkloof, east of Pretoria, by his bodyguards driving in a white SUV with tinted windows.

The Paralympian was sitting in between two of his bodyguards on the back seat and appeared exhausted after today's proceedings at the High Court in Pretoria.

His uncle had arrived earlier in a white Mercedes-Benz.

Arnold emerged from his home and offered a group of journalists standing outside something to eat and drink.

He offered some juice, water and fruit before driving off.

REACTION

There's been mixed reaction to today's proceedings.

Former High Court judge Willem Heath said Masipa has done well to restore confidence in South Africa's legal system.

But the ANC Women's League's Jackie Mofokeng disagree.

Outside the court, many questioned Masipa's findings while others simply said they were relieved

At the same time, Masipa's decision not to convict Pistorius of murder or premeditated murder has triggered shock and anger from locals in Port Elizabeth where Steenkamp grew up.

There appears to be a sombre and reserved mood among friends and acquaintances.

While some locals at the Steenkamp family's pub,The Barking Spider, refused to speak to the media, others didn't hold back after hearing that Pistorius was found not guilty of murder.

A man who knows the Steenkamp family said they have been under huge strain.

"I don't even want to think about it because it will break the family down so much."

Many residents said that despite today's judgment, they still believe Pistorius murdered his girlfriend.

PISTORIUS CLEARED OF MURDER CHARGES

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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