PRETORIA, South Africa - Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius walked free from court Friday after a judge convicted him of culpable homicide and extended his bail until his sentencing next month.
The double amputee was acquitted of murder for the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. South Africa's prosecuting authority said it was "disappointed" with the verdict.
Judge Thokozile Masipa set sentencing for October 13 and ruled that Pistorius will remain out on bail until then, as he has been throughout the marathon trial. While the athlete made no remarks as he was pushed through a frantic media scrum outside the courthouse, his uncle, Arnold, welcomed the murder acquital. In a brief statement, he said the family "never had any doubt about Oscar's version of events."
Pistorius – often called the "Blade Runner" – shot Steenkamp while she was in the bathroom of his luxury home on Valentine's Day last year. The prosecution argued, unsuccessfully, that he murdered her after a fight. Pistorius' defense team said he thought she was an intruder, a version of events the judge said she could not rule out as untrue.
Masipa asked Pistorius to stand as she delivered her verdict. "The accused acted negligently when he fired shots into the toilet door knowing there was someone behind the door," Masipa said. "A reasonable person would have foreseen the possibility that the person behind the door might have been killed by the shots."
The star athlete stood impassively as he received the verdict, showing little of the tearful emotion that had characterized much of his time during the 41-day trial. Steenkamp’s best friend, Gina Myers, and several members of the victim's family wept as the convictions were read out.
The prosecution had sought for Pistorius to be remanded in custody following the verdict, arguing that he had been convicted of a serious crime.
Under South African law, the charge of culpable homicide with a firearm carries a minimum prison sentence of five years. The maximum is 15 years – although the judge would have to show that there was a specific reason for it to be extended. However, Pistorius could even avoid a prison term altogether by having jail time converted into a house arrest with added conditions such as a ban on drinking alcohol.
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