South African court acquits brother of Oscar Pistorius

Carl Pistorius. Photo / AP
Carl Pistorius. Photo / AP

One Pistorius brother is free of charges - acquitted today of culpable homicide in the death of a woman in a road accident. The famous younger brother, Olympian double-amputee Oscar Pistorius, still must face his day in court for shooting and killing his girlfriend.

Carl Pistorius cried tears of relief Tuesday as a magistrate acquitted him of culpable homicide and negligent driving for the woman's death. The magistrate ruled that Carl Pistorius, 28, was not negligent and that Maria Barnard, 32, was driving her motorcycle excessively fast when she crashed into the back of his vehicle in March 2008.

The case attracted international interest because both Pistorius brothers had faced court cases for the deaths of two women.

Carl Pistorius' case was brought to court shortly after athlete Oscar Pistorius shot dead his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day - a shooting he says was accidental because he mistook her for a burglar.

Medupe Simasiku, spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, denied that Carl Pistorius was only prosecuted because of his younger brother's high-profile murder case.

"I believe that despite the fact that the case got the media interest because of the younger brother's case in Pretoria, this case still ran its own course according to its own merit," Simasiku told The Associated Press.

Carl Pistorius' stepmother and sister hugged him in the court after Magistrate Buks du Plessis announced he was acquitted of all charges - culpable homicide as well as alternate charges of driving negligently and driving without consideration.

Pistorius said he felt for the family of the woman who died, regardless of who was responsible.

"My heart goes to them," he said. "I do think of them, and I will continue thinking of them while I walk on this Earth, and I understand their loss and their pain and, regardless of whose responsibility it is, the pain doesn't diminish."

He also thanked the Barnard family, which had insisted he was not to blame for her death, "for their outspoken support and seeing that justice has been served."

Barnard died in a hospital six days after the accident.

Simasiku said the state did not have an expert witness to counter a planned defense argument that Barnard actually died from lack of care in the hospital and not as a result of injuries sustained in the accident.

"We have lost the case," Simasiku said, adding that the National Prosecution Authority will take no further action.

Oscar Pistorius, meanwhile, is not expected to compete for the rest of the year while he focuses on the looming court case. He is due back in court on June 4 and expected to stand trial before the end of the year.

His coach, Ampie Louw, told reporters this week that Pistorius has turned down invitations to take part in major international athletic events.

"We have decided as a team we are not talking any training or athletics," Louw said. "We have postponed (competing) for the whole year."

He said Pistorius did fitness exercises with his family each morning but is not "psychologically ready" to train, let alone compete.

The Pistorius brothers have been close since childhood. Though Oscar Pistorius has not attended any sessions of his brother's trial, Carl was a visible supporter of Oscar during his court appearances in February. He often reached out to touch the shoulder of his younger brother when Oscar Pistorius broke down in tears.

Pistorius is charged with premeditated murder for shooting Reeva Steenkamp on Feb. 14, which he says was accidental because he mistook her for a nighttime intruder when he shot through a door in his bathroom with his licensed handgun.

- AP

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