After a four-day hearing laying out the evidence, the judge in the Oscar Pistorius murder case has agreed to release the accused sprinter on bail until his trial begins. Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair announced his decision after a marathon two-hour reading that laid out all the facts presented in the case so far. Nair declared that the prosecution had failed to make a compelling argument that the famous sprinter would be a flight risk, or that he is a violent person who is likely to hurt others. Bail was set at 1,000,000 South African rand, which is about 112,000 U.S. dollars.
Nair also spent a lot of time discussing the flaws in the prosecution's case, as well as the problems with Pistorius's version of events, but indicated it would still be appropriate to try him on the charge of premeditated murder. As a condition of the bail, Pistorius must give up his passport, surrender all his firearms, and avoid communication with any possible witnesses. He cannot leave South Africa (he can't even go into an airport) and must get permission to leave the state of Pretoria. That means he wouldn't be able to compete in any international track and field events for the time being. He is also banned from using drugs or alcohol and may be tested by a probation officer at any time.
His next court appearance will be June 4.
Earlier updates: Pistorius was described as shaking and crying as the judge recount the arguments on both sides of the case. Nair even stopped while reading his ruling to ask if Pistorius was okay.
#Pistorius fighting back tears as Magistrate Nair recaps his affidavit.— Lydia Polgreen (@lpolgreen) February 22, 2013
This is a little painful. Everyone in court straining for a judgement. Wheels of justice etc.— andrew harding (@BBCAndrewH) February 22, 2013
Update (8:35 a.m.): Nair has been reading for nearly a hour and has now called for a five-minute recess without yet announcing his decision on bail. Shortly before the break, he seemed to express doubts about the prosecution's evidence, but said its not up to him to rule on guilt and he's still inclined to consider the case as charge of pre-meditated murder.
Update (9:09 a.m.): Nair says it hasn't been established that Pistorius is a flight risk, partly because the case is not so strong that Pistorius would feel he is doomed to prison.
Update (9:21 a.m.): Bail is granted. The judge has called for another brief recess, but will return soon to continue with his ruling. Essentially, Magistrate Nair determined that Pistorius is not a flight risk and not a violent threat to others, nor is the case so ironclad that he would feel he has no chance of winning at trial. The judge spent a good part of his ruling pointing out the flaws in both the prosecution's case and the Pistorius's claims about an intruder. Someone in the court, probably a relative of Pistorius, could be heard shouting "Yes" after the judge announced his decision.