Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was granted bail on Friday, having been charged with premeditated murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
When the announcement was made, members of his family shouted in approval.
“I come to the conclusion that the accused made a case to be granted bail,” Judge Desmond Nair told a packed courtroom.
The judge said he concluded Mr. Pistorius isn’t a flight risk, and hasn’t been proven to pose violence to other people or that he will interfere with state witnesses.
In his two-hour reading of the decision, Mr. Nair said the recently removed chief investigating officer’s evidence was weak and “tarnished.” At the same time, he said it doesn’t account for the whole state case.
He also said, “The defense has failed to show there is a weakness in the state case.”
During the extended bail hearing for Mr. Pistorius, which is in its fourth day, the state has alleged the Olympic and Paralympic runner fired shots through a closed bathroom door and killed his girlfriend, 29-year-old model and aspiring actress Ms. Steenkamp, after what it says could have been a Valentine’s Day argument with his girlfriend. The state argues it was premeditated murder, which could render a life sentence if Mr. Pistorius is found guilty.
Mr. Pistorius’s legal team says he fired shots through the bathroom door because he thought there was a burglar inside and feared for his safety. Mr. Pistorius said through an affidavit this week that he had no intention to kill his girlfriend. When Mr. Pistorius’s lawyer, Barry Roux, was asked by the judge what he would have argued for if he were the prosecution, he said at most culpable homicide, which is a much smaller sentence.
Mr. Roux and prosecutor Gerrie Nel sparred further Friday, before the judge adjourned to make his decision. Mr. Nel refutes the version Mr. Pistorius put forward through an affidavit. Mr. Nel said it didn’t make sense that a man who has been portrayed as fearful for his safety would leave his bedroom sliding door open or that Mr. Pistorius would fire through the bathroom door before checking where Ms. Steenkamp was located.
Mr. Roux, in previous days’ arguments, sought to poke holes in the chief investigator’s evidence, such as not having thoroughly checked phone records or seen that Ms. Steenkamp’s bladder was empty, indicating she could have chosen to get up and go to the toilet.
The judge is still to set a trial date. The case will go before a judge; South Africa doesn’t use the jury system and doesn’t have the death penalty.
The investigating team will continue to collect evidence, but under a new team. Hilton Botha was removed as chief investigating officer Thursday after the prosecuting authority of Mpumalanga province, in early February, reinstated an attempted murder charge against him for a 2011 incident.
– The Wall Street Journal