PRETORIA, South Africa - The trial of South African track star Oscar Pistorius was interrupted today when Judge Thokozile Masipa received word that the defendant had been acquitted by a jury from the U.S. state of Florida. Proceedings are expected to resume once officials have determined why the jury passed judgment in the case and whether their decision should have any effect on the outcome.
Pistorius, 27, stands accused of murdering his 29-year-old girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, in February 2013. Pistorius admits to shooting Steenkamp four times through a bathroom door. He claims to have mistaken her for an intruder. Prosecutors believe the shooting was an act of rage and have built a case based largely on circumstantial evidence.
Florida's broad self-defense standards gained worldwide attention after the July 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, who was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman's attorneys based their defense on Florida's "stand your ground" law, which allows citizens to use deadly force to defend themselves against perceived threats.
Sources close to Pistorius said he felt encouraged by the verdict. Attorneys from both sides have refused to comment as they await word from the judge.