WASHINGTON DC —
A South African judge says Oscar Pistorius is not guilty of murder or premeditated murder, the two most serious charges he faced at his trial for his killing of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Judge Thokozile Masipa said Thursday as she presented her verdict in the case that Pistorius clearly wanted to use his firearm, but that does not mean he meant to kill. She called the evidence related to premeditation "purely circumstantial."
The court took a break before she was due to announce her ruling on the charge of culpable homicide.
Prosecutors say Pistorius intentionally shot Steenkamp through a locked bathroom door at his home in February of last year. Pistorius says he thought he was shooting at a nighttime intruder.
The judge discussed details of testimony presented during the 41-day trial, saying Steenkamp was killed "under very peculiar circumstances."
Judge Masipa said it is not possible to conclude anything about the state of the relationship between Pistorius and Steenkamp at the time of the shooting.
She also said Pistorius understood the difference between right and wrong, and that his testimony saying he did not intend to shoot contradicts his defense that he was acting in self-defense.
Pistorius also faces lesser firearm-related charges.
Because South Africa has no trial by jury, Judge Masipa is deciding the case with the help of two legal assistants.
The 66-year-old Masipa was only the second black woman to be appointed a High Court judge in South Africa and has a reputation for handing down stiff sentences in crimes against women.
Pistorius is known as the "blade runner" for his carbon-fiber prosthetic legs. He was the first double-amputee to compete in the Olympics at the 2012 games in London.