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Oscar Pistorius Guilty of Culpable Homicide, Gun Charge

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on September 12, 2014 10:50 AM

Oscar Pistorius, the South African track star known as the "Blade Runner," has been found guilty of culpable homicide in the shooting death of his girlfriend.

Following a six-month trial, the former Olympic athlete was convicted of culpable homicide -- the South African equivalent of manslaughter -- for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year, reports USA Today. Pistorius was also convicted on a weapons charge related to firing a handgun in a restaurant only weeks before Steenkamp's death.

What led the judge to convict Pistorius of homicide, and what criminal penalties might he now face?

Prosecutors Failed to Prove Murder: Judge

Pistorius' convictions come one day after Judge Thokozile Masipa acquitted Pistorius of the more serious charge of murder. The judge said that prosecutors had failed to show Pistorius had intended to kill Steenkamp.

However, culpable homicide, similar to the U.S. justice system's involuntary manslaughter, required only that Pistorius be found negligent in firing a gun through a bathroom door where Steenkamp had locked herself.

Pistorius had claimed that he thought Steenkamp was still in bed when he shot through the door, believing that it was an intruder. Judge Masipa said yesterday in announcing her acquittal of Pistorius for premeditated murder that the prosecution's evidence against Pistorius was circumstantial and its witnesses unconvincing.

Possible Jail Time

Although acquitted of the more serious charge, Pistorius still faces potential jail time. In South Africa, the maximum penalty for culpable homicide is 15 years in prison.

In addition, Pistorius was convicted on one of the three additional charges he was facing. He was found guilty of unlawfully firing a gun in public, but acquitted on the charge of illegal possession of ammo and a separate count of illegally firing a gun in public.

Pistorius is currently free on bail and will return to court for sentencing on October 13th.

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