Cleared of murder, Pistorius faces homicide verdict

Cleared of murder, Pistorius faces homicide verdict

Celebrity athlete Oscar Pistorius arrived in court today to face judgement for culpable homicide, a verdict that will decide if the famed "Blade Runner" walks free after his shock murder acquittal.

In a ruling followed live on TV screens worldwide, South African Judge Thokozile Masipa on Thursday declared the double amputee not guilty of deliberately shooting dead his 29-year-old lover, Reeva Steenkamp.

"The state clearly has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder," Masipa told the Pretoria High Court, before adjourning for the day.

On Friday she is expected to conclude her ruling and, if necessary, set a date for sentencing.

Flanked by bodyguards, the 27-year-old double amputee, who made fame and fortune from his sporting life before falling into scandal, pushed his way through the throng of media to get inside Pretoria's High Court.

If the homicide charge sticks, the Paralypian could face more than a decade in one of South Africa's notoriously violent jails.

Legal experts voiced surprise that Pistorius was found not guilty of murder, and predicted the case would likely not rest with the verdict.

Wits University criminal law professor James Grant noted the state could appeal if they believe there has been an legal error. "Everyone is a little surprised," said lawyer Audrey Berndt, zeroing in Masipa's finding that Pistorius could not have known that firing four hollow point bullets through the bathroom door would have killed someone.

"She should have explained her reasoning a little more" said Berndt. But Masipa -- whose career has taken her from a childhood in a poor Johannesburg township to the country's high court -- appeared to open the door for a lesser charge.

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