Pistorius Verdict Disputed By Victim's Family, Legal Experts

Oscar Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide, but not common law murder, in the death of his former girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Posted at 8:12 PM, Sep 12, 2014

After over six months of deliberation, the trial of South Africa's former Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius has finally come to a close.

JUDGE THOKOZILE MASIPA VIA ENCA"The accused is found not guilty and is discharged. Instead, he is found guilty of culpable homicide."

Pistorius was cleared of more serious murder charges, but still found guilty of culpable homicide in the shooting death of his then-girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius has admitted to fatally shooting Steenkamp in 2013, but claimed he mistook her for an intruder. (Video via HLN)

The judge found the prosecution failed to prove Pistorius acted with intent to kill when he fired four shots at Steenkamp through a bathroom door. Instead, Pistorius was only found to have acted recklessly and with excessive force — hence, the culpable homicide charge. (Video via Channel 4)

Culpable homicide, which is equivalent to manslaughter, carries a maximum of 15 years, but no minimum sentence. Sentencing is left solely to the judge's discretion — Pistorius could face a severe 8 to 10 years behind bars, or a suspended sentence with no jail time at all.

Pistorius' uncle made a brief statement after the verdict, reaching out to the victim's loved ones.

ARNOLD PISTORIUS VIA SABC: "It won't bring Reeva back, but our hearts will go out for her family and friends."

But Steenkamp's parents told NBC they aren't satisfied with how the trial ended.

"I just don't feel that this is the right sentence. ... I can't believe that they believe that it was an accident."

Pistorius was released on bail Friday, and will face sentencing on Oct. 13. After the sentencing, both sides will have a chance to appeal the ruling — and some legal experts say the prosecution could have a solid appeal argument to make.

The contention rests on the concept of "dolus eventualis:" a legal doctrine which holds people responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their actions. Essentially, if Pistorius knew his actions were likely to have killed someone, he's responsible for murder.

A writer for Independent Online says Pistorius' claim that he believed Steenkamp was an intruder doesn't absolve him of murder under dolus evenetualis. "The murder charge holds so long as he believed SOMEONE was there, foresaw that four shots in that direction could kill them and reconciled himself to that outcome. And he did."

So why wasn't Pistorius convicted under that principle? Supporters of the ruling say Pistorius wasn't trying to kill anyone when he fired the shots — his mind was purely on defending himself.

FORMER HIGH COURT JUDGE WILLEM HEATH ON AL JAZEERA: "Oscar was at risk to be shot and to be killed. And therefore he was actually acting in self-defense. ... He did not have the intention to commit murder."

It's not clear what Pistorius' immediate future will hold, but a representative from the International Paralympic Committee told reporters Friday Pistorius would be eligible to compete after he's served his sentence.

This video includes images from Getty Images.