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Trial of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius

August 09, 2014 11:40 IST

Trial of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius

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The murder trial of Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius will wind up on Friday, ending six months of at times gripping courtroom drama that transfixed his native South Africa and millions more around the world.

Judge Thokozile Masipa now retires with her two assistants, or 'assessors', to review more than 4,000 pages of evidence before arriving at a decision on the central charge of premeditated murder. The verdict could still be many weeks away.

Legal experts say much will hinge on Masipa's view as to the credibility of Pistorius' testimony.

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Image: Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius (C) arrives for the closing arguments in his murder trial, at the high court in Pretoria
Photographs: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

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Pistorius has denied murder

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The 27-year-old athlete endured a torrid week on the stand during which he broke down frequently and gave conflicting versions of the moment he fired four shots through a locked toilet door, saying it was both deliberate and accidental.

He has denied murder, saying he believed an intruder was hiding behind the door. The state says he intended to kill Steenkamp, who took refuge in the toilet after a row in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year.

No date has been set for the verdict.

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Image: Oscar Pistorius
Photographs: Werner Beukes/Independent Newspapers/Gallo Image/Getty Images

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Pistorius faces a mandatory life sentence

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Following are possible outcomes:

- If convicted of premeditated murder, Pistorius faces a mandatory life sentence, meaning he will be behind bars for 25 years before he can be considered for parole.

- Masipa can also convict Pistorius of murder but without explicit premeditation, a lesser crime that still carries up to 20 years in jail. The sentence can be reduced on presentation of "substantial and compelling" circumstances.

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Image: Oscar Pistorius
Photographs: Herman Verwey-Pool/Foto24/Gallo Image/Getty Images

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Pistorius could still be jailed for culpable homicide

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If Masipa is not convinced of Pistorius' intent to kill, he could still be jailed for culpable homicide - equivalent to Britain's manslaughter - based on negligent or reckless discharge of his 9mm pistol into the toilet door.

Culpable homicide carries a maximum of 15 years behind bars.

- Alternatively, Masipa could accept Pistorius' primary argument of 'putative self-defence' - meaning that he fired into the door because he genuinely believed his life to be in danger from a perceived intruder - and acquit him.

In addition to the murder charge, Pistorius is accused of three lesser weapons offences: one count of illegal possession of ammunition and two counts of discharging a firearm in a public place.

These charges carry up to five years in prison, although in most instances are punishable by a fine.


Image: Oscar Pistorius
Photographs: Herman Verwey-Pool/Foto24/Gallo Image/Getty Images

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