Oscar Pistorius is facing up to 15 years in prison after hearing that he will be found guilty of killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in the early hours of Valentine's Day in 2013.
The verdict has not yet been delivered by Judge Thokozile Masipa, but she clearly stated that Pistorius had failed the critical "reasonable person" test relating to the incident, in which he fired four shots through the bathroom door.
"He acted too hastily and used excessive force. In the circumstance it is clear that his conduct was negligent," said Masipa as she discussed the charge of culpable homicide, akin to manslaughter in British law.
Though the judge adjourned proceedings after making her crucial statement, she refrained from actually delivering the verdict on Thursday afternoon – and the court will reconvene this morning.
It will amount to a final night of freedom for Pistorius: the judge was scathing in her criticism of the man known as 'Blade Runner', leaving no room for doubt that the 27-year-old will be convicted of the lesser culpable homicide charge.
There are two further charges, both related to firearms offences, which Masipa will also rule today.
Earlier yesterday Masipa had ruled that the evidence was not sufficient to decide that the Paralympic champion was guilty of either premeditated or second degree murder.
Ruling that a "reasonable person" would not have acted as Pistorius did in firing repeatedly through the bathroom door, however, Masipa indicated that Pistorius will be found guilty of culpabale homicide.
The judge then adjourned proceedings for the day, and will officially deliver her verdict today.
Although Masipa described the 27-year-old as a "very poor" and "evasive" witness, she said it did not mean the track star was necessarily guilty in a case she said was based entirely on circumstantial evidence.
"The state has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder," Masipa told the Pretoria High Court. "There are just not enough facts to support such a finding."
She then proceeded to absolve Pistorius, who said he shot model and law graduate Steenkamp in the mistaken belief she was an intruder hiding in a toilet cubicle, of a lesser murder charge that falls short of a direct intention to kill.
"Clearly he did not subjectively foresee this as a possibility that he would kill the person behind the door – let alone the deceased – as he thought she was in the bedroom," she told the packed courtroom.
Although he has been cleared of the two murder charges, the judge's word indicated that he will be convicted of culpable homicide for the "negligent or reckless killing" of Steenkamp, hit by four 9mm rounds fired through the toilet door at Pistorius's luxury Pretoria home.
Masipa used both terms in her characterisation of Pistorius's actions on the fatal night.
Culpable homicide carries up to 15 years in jail, with no minimum sentence. Though acquittal is impossible based on Masipa's statements on Thursday afternoon, it is possible that the double-amputee could be given no more than a suspended sentence, allowing him to leave the court and potentially resume his career as one of the biggest names in world athletics.
As the 66-year-old Masipa began her methodical review of the 41-day trial and the charges – which also include three unrelated firearms offences – a pained and forlorn Pistorius bowed his head in the dock.
Masipa, only the second black woman to rise to the bench in South Africa, has remained impassive throughout the often dramatic and gruesome court proceedings, seemingly impervious to the global interest in a case that has drawn comparisons to the 1995 murder trial of American football star OJ Simpson.
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