Oscar Pistorius was negligent when he fired four shots into a toilet cubicle that killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, Judge Thokozile Masipa said on Thursday.
Judge Masipa also said the prosecution had failed to prove premeditated murder, but that culpable homicide is still a “competent verdict”
“I am of the view that the accused acted too hastily and used excessive force. In the circumstances it is clear that his conduct was negligent.”
After saying this Masipa adjourned proceedings for the day. Earlier there was an short delay in the start of proceedings after the lunch break.
Oscar Pistorius’ lawyer Barry Roux and prosecutor Gerrie Nel were seen leaving the courtroom and disappearing through the door to the judge’s chambers.
Court resumed about 15 minutes later, but Masipa only spoke for several minutes more on negligence before she abruptly adjourned until Friday.
Masipa was due to rule on whether Oscar Pistorius was guilty of culpable homicide, which is defined as the unlawful killing of a person without an intention to kill.
Masipa said South Africans had experienced crime or the effects of it but had not resorted to sleeping with firearms under their pillows. “The accused knew there was a person behind the door, he chose to use a firearm.”
Masipa questioned if a reasonable person would have taken steps to guard against intruders.
Pistorius was acquitted of murder as the court found that the evidence with regard to the charge was “purely circumstantial”.
“The accused therefore cannot be found guilty of murder dolus eventualis [legal intent]… that however is not the end of the matter as culpable homicide is a competent verdict,” said Masipa.
“The State has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder. There are just not enough facts to support such a finding.”
Pistorius, 27, said he thought an intruder was behind the door of the toilet in his Pretoria home when he shot through it. He fired four times killing Steenkamp on February 14, 2013.
The State argued the murder was premeditated. Pistorius pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, and to three firearm-related charges.