Pistorius could still face prison time for culpable homicide

Judge Thokozile Masipa found that Pistorius had time to think before he fetched his firearm.

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

PRETORIA - The family of Reeva Steenkamp will be watching with great anticipation this morning as to whether Oscar Pistorius will be convicted of culpable homicide, which could result in a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

In a dramatic ruling in the High Court in Pretoria yesterday, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled that he cannot be found guilty of murder.

However, the judge ruled that he had been negligent.

The athlete shot and killed Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year believing she was an intruder, a version the court has accepted.

Masipa found that the double amputee had time to think and reflect on his conduct before he fetched his firearm.

"The accused knew that there was someone behind the toilet door and he chose to use a firearm. He was competent in the use of firearms as he had undergone training."

She said Pistorius had other options available to him.

"He could have run to the balcony to screamed for help so there is no other explanation why he couldn't do so before he ventured into the bathroom with a loaded gun."

The judge found he acted in haste and should be held accountable.

PISTORIUS'S NEGLIGENCE

Masipa is expected to continue giving reasons as to why the Paralympian and Olympian athlete was negligent on the night he shot and killed Steenkamp.

She ruled out the possibility of a murder verdict, but her findings appear to have paved the way for a culpable homicide conviction.

The judge questioned why Pistorius didn't call the security or scream for help instead of fetching his firearm and storming the perceived threat.

"The accused acted too hastily and used excessive force."

She says the athlete's upbringing and life experiences may explain his conduct, but it doesn't excuse it.

"Many have been victims to violent crimes but have not resorted to sleeping with firearms under their pillows."

Masipa says Pistorius had time to reflect and think about what he was doing when he fetched his handgun.

ASPECTS OF THE CASE THAT CAN'T BE ANSWERED

The judge says there are still certain aspects of this case that cannot be answered.

But she says it's still unclear why Steenkamp didn't hear or respond to the athlete when he shouted at the intruder to leave his house.

Masipa said while she accepts that the athlete thought there was an intruder in the house, she still can't understand why there wasn't any communication between him and Steenkamp.

"It makes no sense to say she didn't hear him scream 'get out'."

She said those are questions that can't be answered.

"Another question is why the accused fired four shots, these questions will unfortunately remain a matter of conjecture."

Masipa argued that Pistorius was a poor witness and therefore could not foresee that when he shot at the door someone would be killed.

DID MASIPA CONTRADICT HERSELF?

There's much public discussion about whether she may have contradicted herself while making various findings.

Many of these questions revolve around dolus eventualis or whether the double amputee knew his actions would kill his girlfriend.

Wits University law professor James Grant says Masipa got all the technical stuff right.

"What seemed to constrict her question of dolus eventualis to the possibility it only Steenkamp being behind the door, which is not the appropriate question."

While attorney Tyrone Maseko says he also questions about her findings that he was acting in self-defence.

"She upheld putative self-defence and my understanding of it to sustained is you need to concede that you intended to fight."

However the judge still has to finish her judgment before these questions can be fully answered.

Video: Pistorius cleared of murder.

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

Pictures: Pool, Carte Blanche & EWN.