Oscar Pistorius Verdict: NOT GUILTY of Murder in Reeva Steenkamp Shooting

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Having remained silent throughout his months-long trial, the judge in the Oscar Pistorius murder case reached a verdict to decide the Olympic athlete's fate Thursday:

Pistorius cannot be found guilty of intentionally killing Reeva Steenkamp, the judge ruled. As such, under South African law, Pistorius will not be found guilty of "murder."

The proceedings continue, and Pistorius faces other possible verdicts, including culpable homicide, that could still land him behind bars. But not for murder.

The verdict came from Judge Thokozile Masipa alone, as South Africa does not have jury trials. The 66-year-old said she did not come to her decision lightly.

Pistorius gunned down girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day 2013, in what defense lawyers say was a terrible mistake, believing she was an intruder.

State prosecutors argued it was premeditated murder, but a lesser murder charge or negligent killing, both of which call for years in jail, were also on the table.

Experts pointed to Masipa's record of tough action against criminals who victimized women as indicators that she would not be easily swayed by Pistorius' dubious story.

Others describe her as a good listener and a dispassionate analyst of facts, however, so there was truly no telling how she would rule until she did so.

Judge Masipa said Pistorius could not have foreseen that the person he was shooting at, behind the bathroom door, would die, and thus an intent to kill was not proven.

She also said evidence suggests that Pistorius genuinely believed Reeva Steenkamp was still in the bedroom, and that the person in the bathroom was an intruder.

Before she rejected the premeditated murder charge, Masipa questioned why he fired "not one ... but four shots" into the bathroom before he went to find her.

However, she said, his intention to shoot does not necessarily mean the intent to kill, which was enough to clear the athlete of the worst criminal charge.

Shorly before, Masipa cast doubt on some of the witness testimony heard in the six-month trial, and said she believes media coverage contaminated testimonies.

She described the victim's wound as "immediately incapacitating," and said she believed a scream heard by witnesses the night of the killing was from Oscar, not Reeva.

The judge appeared to accept the defense timeline that the shots were fired first, then the screaming that must have been Pistorius, horrified at his alleged mistake.

Story developing ...

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