South African Judge Thokozile Masipa said while reading her verdict in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius on Thursday that defence claims that police contaminated evidence and removed items from the crime scene "paled into insignificance".
Judge Masipa on Thursday opened a court session due to announce the verdict in the case of athlete Oscar Pistorius, who could face up to 25 years in prison over the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Assisted by two legal assessors, Judge Masipa will recount and analyze the evidence given by each of the 37 witnesses. She will then give her interpretation of the findings and announce the verdict, which might not happen until Friday.
Oscar Pistorius arrived in a South African courtroom ahead of the verdict in the murder trial of the double-amputee athlete Pistorius hugged his brother Carl, who was seated in a wheelchair because of injuries suffered in a recent car crash. The parents of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp were also in the packed gallery on Thursday.
The double-amputee Olympic sprinter was on trial from March 3 to August 8, charged with the premeditated murder of Reeva Steenkamp, 29, whom he shot through a bathroom door in his Pretoria home on February 14, 2013. Pistorius, 27, said he heard a noise from the bathroom and thought a burglar had broken in through the window.
The verdict could hinge on questions such as whether Steenkamp screamed — indicating Pistorius knew she was in the bathroom before he fired the final shot — and whether his disability made him act in an exaggeratedly defensive manner.
The defence had argued that the athlete’s disability contributed to a heightened insecurity and “fight response,” which influenced his behaviour on the night of the killing.
The trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria lasted 41 days, during which 37 witnesses were heard.
If Judge Masipa accepts the prosecution’s argument that Pistorius planned to kill Steenkamp following a quarrel, and finds him guilty, the athlete could receive a life sentence of at least 25 years in prison.
If the judge rules that Pistorius killed Steenkamp but without premeditation, he could get a lower, but still lengthy, jail term.
If Judge Masipa concludes that Pistorius committed manslaughter, a 5—10 year sentence is likely.
If Pistorius is found guilty, it could take weeks for Judge Masipa to announce the sentence, according to National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Nathi Mncube.
The athlete also faces separate charges of twice discharging a firearm in public and of illegal possession of ammunition.
Pistorius, whose legs were amputated at the knee at the age of 11 months because of a congenital abnormality, became the first amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in the 2012 London Olympics.