'Blade Runner' Pistorius Avoids Murder Charge, Still Faces Possible 'Culpable Homicide'

Thursday, September 11th 2014, 9:20 am
By: News 9

The judge in Oscar Pistorius' murder trial Thursday ruled out the most damning of the charges against the double-amputee athlete - premeditated murder.

CBS News' Debora Patta reports that Pistorius broke down in tears in the courtroom as it appeared increasingly likely that Judge Thokozile Masipa was heading toward a ruling of culpable homicide in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

"I am of the view that the accused acted too hastily and used excessive force. It is clear that his conduct was negligent," the judge said.

If Masipa were to hand down a verdict convicting Pistorius of culpable homicide, it would mean she deemed the runner negligent in causing Steenkamp's death and he could still face a lengthy prison sentence for it.

However, Pistorius was told he would have to wait another night to learn his fate.

During the first day of her reading of her verdict, Masipa said Pistorius was a poor witness and often untruthful, but in a surprise to many who have watched this case closely, she said an intention to shoot did not necessarily amount to an intention to kill.

"The state has clearly not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder," she told the court in her first significant remark of the day.

She began with a devastating critique of the state prosecution's case, which relied heavily on neighbors' testimonies that they heard the blood curdling screams of a woman. She said while the neighbors were not deliberately dishonest, they were unreliable.

"The evidence of witnesses must be rejected in its entirety," said Masipa. "A court has to evaluate all the facts taking into account the number of contradictions."

The whole point of this case turns on whether Masipa believes Pistorius shot his Steenkamp by accident on Valentine's Day a year ago thinking she was an intruder, as he and his defense team have argued, or in a murderous fit of rage.

CBS News managed to get a rare look inside Pistorius' home -- returning to the scene of the crime.

The bathroom where Steenkamp was killed is surprisingly small. On the wall you can still see the tape marking the bullet holes where he fired those four fatal shots.

The judge now must tell the court whether she believes those shots were deliberate. Those crucial words, however, were not to come on day-one of the verdict reading; Masipa adjourned the court until Friday morning without delivering her final ruling.