Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius trial judge rules out murder, verdict incomplete

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Oscar Pistorius was negligent in killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year, but there were not enough facts to support a murder charge, the trial judge said Thursday.

Judge Thokozile Masipa did not finish her verdict and ordered the trial resume at 3:30 a.m. ET on Friday.

“There are just not enough facts to support such a find,” Masipa said in dismissing premeditated murder after Pistorius shot four times through a locked bathroom door at what he thought was an intruder but turned out to be Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013. “Clearly, he did not subjectively foresee this as a possibility that he would kill the person behind the door.”

Masipa left open the possibility for Pistorius to be convicted of a lesser charge — culpable homicide (or negligent killing), which would include a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

Here’s NBC News’ full coverage of the Pistorius trial.

“Did the accused fail to take steps which he should reasonably have taken to guard against the consequence?” Masipa said. “The answer is yes. He failed to take any step to avoid resultant death. I am of the view that the accused acted too hastily and used excessive force. In the circumstances, it is clear that his conduct was negligent.”

Pistorius, the first double amputee to run in the Olympics in 2012, sat alone on the same wooden bench he has occupied for most of the trial on Thursday. He closed his eyes, shook his shoulders and wept as Masipa said there weren’t enough facts to support premeditated murder. A premeditated murder charge would carry a sentence of up to life in prison.

Masipa said Pistorius’ lawyers correctly argued the runner believed he was shooting at an intruder rather than Steenkamp.

Masipa believed Pistorius’ verson of events, saying it was highly improbable he would have made up a story so quickly, having told the first people he saw after the shooting.

Masipa also said Pistorius stayed consistent with his version, but when it came to the law, it didn’t matter who was behind the door.

“The fact the person behind the door turned out to be the deceased and not an intruder is irrelevant,” Masipa said. “There is no doubt that when the accused fired shots through the toilet door, he acted unlawfully.”

The prosecution’s case was that Pistorius shot Steenkamp after an argument. Masipa disagreed.

Masipa added that Pistorius was “a very poor witness” in his own defense in April. She said Steenkamp died under “very peculiar circumstances.”

There is no jury system in South Africa. The 66-year-old judge and her two assessors took the last month to decide Pistorius’ fate.

The murder trial, initially slated for March 3-20, has taken 42 days of court time scattered among several breaks over six months.

Tokyo 1964 Olympic cauldron lighter passes away

French Open: Karolina Pliskova, top player sans Slam, again exits early

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No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova exited yet another Grand Slam in the early stages, falling to 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the second round at Roland Garros on Thursday.

Ostapenko, whose only match wins at the French Open before this week came in her title run three years ago, bounced the big-serving Czech 6-4, 6-2.

Pliskova put fewer than half of her first serves in play, while Ostapenko fired 27 winners to 19 unforced errors. Pliskova was on the ropes in her first round, too, needing three sets to get past an Egyptian qualifier.

“Maybe same level as the match before, but of course [Ostapenko] is much better player,” Pliskova said. “Not much to say about this match.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Later Thursday, top-ranked Novak Djokovic had a second straight win ceding just five games, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 over Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis. Djokovic undefeated in 2020 save his U.S. Open default for smacking a ball that inadvertently struck a linesperson, next gets Colombian lucky loser Daniel Elahi Galán.

Nobody else in Djokovic’s half of the draw at the start of the tournament made a French Open semifinal before.

Pliskova is the highest-ranked player of either gender (No. 4) without a Grand Slam title, yet hasn’t made it past the fourth round at a major since the 2019 Australian Open.

She’s played six Slams as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, one shy of Caroline Wozniacki‘s total before she broke through at the 2018 Australian Open and two shy of Simona Halep‘s total before she won the 2018 French Open.

Ostapenko, meanwhile, is having a very different career.

She won the 2017 Roland Garros title, two days after turning 20, while ranked 47th. She hasn’t gotten past the third round of a major since 2018 Wimbledon, including first-round French Open exits the last two years, and is back down to No. 43 in the WTA rankings.

“It’s hard to compare with 2017. As I said, it was like three years ago, and I was much younger, and also I was fearless. Nobody knew me,” Ostapenko said. “The world doesn’t stop with winning only one Grand Slam. Of course I want to achieve more, and I want to be back in top five, top 10.”

She dropped just nine games in four sets this week.

Ostapenko gets 87th-ranked Spaniard Paula Badosa in third round. Badosa dispatched 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

MORE: Serena Williams ‘struggling to walk’

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix fields look very different this season

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Before Nathan Chen is expected to go for a historic fifth straight U.S. figure skating title in January, he will, in a first, compete against most of his top countrymen later this month.

Fields for the Grand Prix Series, figure skating’s autumn international circuit, were published Thursday. As expected, every top skater entered will compete in his or her home country, or nearest to where he or she trains, and in one of the six events.

Traditionally, skaters compete in two of the six events and are scattered among competitions in the U.S., Canada, France, Russia, China and Japan based on world rankings.

But the International Skating Union restricted travel this season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Skaters are limited to compete locally. And the Grand Prix Final at the conclusion of the Grand Prix Series has been postponed from its scheduled December setting in Beijing.

That means that Chen vies for a record-tying fourth straight Skate America crown in Las Vegas in three weeks against a field mostly made up of countrymen, including Olympic teammate Vincent Zhou and U.S. bronze medalist Tomoki Hiwatashi.

In all, there are eight U.S. men entered in Skate America, 11 women (including past national champions Bradie Tennell and Gracie Gold), six pairs and nine ice dance couples (including U.S. champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue), plus some skaters from other nations who train in the U.S.

Traditionally, a country has no more than three entries per discipline at a Grand Prix event.

GRAND PRIX FIELDS: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance

Sochi Olympian Jason Brown, who trains in Toronto, is entered in Skate Canada the week after Skate America.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix Series until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

All of the reigning Olympic champions are absent from the series.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan previously announced he wouldn’t compete due to virus-related travel risks. Russian Alina Zagitova extended her indefinite break from competition dating to last autumn, rather choosing to participate in a skating-themed TV series.

Ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada retired. The German pairs’ team of Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot last competed in the 2018 Olympic season.

Instead, the headliners include Chen, the two-time world champion undefeated since placing fifth in PyeongChang. And a deep crop of Russian teenage women, all of course entered in the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in November.

MORE: Brian Orser reacts to Yevgenia Medvedeva’s coaching switch

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