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Athlete likely to be convicted of manslaughter

By Tom Peck

THE CHARGE: Premeditated murder.

THE VERDICT: Rejected

WHY?: It needed to be proved that Oscar Pistorius knew Reeva Steenkamp was behind the door, that he planned to kill her and did kill her.

Judge Masipa rejected this charge out of hand.

To convict on this charge, the burden is on the state to prove that there could be no other explanation, something which it failed to do.

THE CHARGE: Second degree, or common law murder.

THE VERDICT: This was also rejected.

WHY?: It had hinged on a complex legal term called 'dolus eventualis'.

According to criminal lawyer Ulrich Roux: "When the test of 'dolus eventualis' is applied, the question that is asked is whether the accused could have foreseen the possibility that his actions would have resulted in death, yet was reckless to that possibility when he proceeded to shoot."

Some South African lawyers have already criticised Judge Masipa, saying that Pistorius must have known there was a real possibility that he would kill whoever was behind the locked toilet door when he fired four shots through it.

On this, the judge accepted Pistorius's version that he did not foresee his actions would kill. It is also relevant that he could not have foreseen killing Ms Steenkamp, as he wrongly believed her to be in the bedroom.

THE CHARGE: Culpable homicide.

THE VERDICT: To be decided.

WHY?: Though the judge accepted Pistorius did not foresee he would kill whoever was in the toilet, a reasonable man would have done, she said, which leaves him open to the charge of culpable homicide, or manslaughter.

He will almost certainly be convicted under this lesser charge.

It is not unreasonable to see Pistorius's actions, in arming himself, confronting danger, pointing his firearm towards a person and firing it, as near the upper end of this range.

SENTENCING: If found guilty, Pistorius could be sentenced to anything from a non-custodial sentence to 15 years in jail.

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