JOHANNESBURG: Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial resumes Monday after a two-week break, with the defence expected to call another round of expert witnesses after the prosecution tore apart the athlete’s testimony.
In the dock for the murder of his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, Pistorius appeared to change his defence under cross examination, casting doubt on his credibility.
The 27-year-old initially told the court that he shot Steenkamp through a locked toilet door, thinking the 29-year-old law graduate was an intruder coming to attack him in the dead of night.
But buckling under pressure, the double-amputee — who rose to international fame by being the first Paralympian to run against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 London Olympics — changed his testimony to say he fired the four shots accidentally.
His lawyers will spend at least the next two weeks trying to firm up his account.
Among the witnesses expected to give evidence this week is a psychologist who will speak to the athlete’s physical vulnerability, after details emerged in court of his obsession with guns.
Prosecutors have argued that the 2013 Valentine’s Day shooting came after a row between the couple that had been dating for around three months.
Pistorius fired four bullets through a lavatory door, killing Steenkamp who was in the toilet cubicle inside the athlete’s house in an upmarket housing complex in Pretoria.
State prosecutor Gerrie Nel has accused the athlete of “tailoring” his evidence, calling it “a lie”.
“Your version… is a lie,” said Nel, who has earned himself the moniker “bulldog” because of his aggressive style of questioning.
At times, the world famous sprinter, dubbed the “Blade Runner” wept and wretched in court, in a trial that is broadcast live on television.
His emotional outbursts, including loud wailing and sobbing had on several occasions forced the presiding judge, Thokozile Masipa to halt the proceedings to allow him to compose himself.
During the trial break, a well-known South African blogger and columnist Jani Allan claimed he had been coached for his emotional performance, prompting a strong denial by Pistorius’s family.
Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to intentionally killing Steenkamp, as well as to three other firearms charges.
He faces a maximum of 25 years in prison if convicted of murder.
But the athlete will be hoping that his remaining expert witnesses fair better than his first.
A forensic expert, Roger Dixon, hired by his lawyers to buttress his case made several blunders on stand, leading Nel to dismiss him as unqualified.
Dixon, a forensic geologist, was forced to admit he was testifying on aspects not related to his field, even calling himself a “layman” at one stage.
The hearing which started on March 3, has grabbed local and international headlines, with a special 24-hour pay television channel dedicated to it.
In court Pistorius has come face-to-face with the mother of the slain model, June Steenkamp, who has sat stoically in the public gallery, listening to gory details of her daughter’s last moments.
The case being heard at the north Gauteng High Court in the capital Pretoria, is expected to take a few more months to conclude.
Judiciary sources say once evidence is concluded the defence and prosecution will require a few weeks to compile their written submissions before presenting them to court.
They will return to court to answer final questions on their arguments, then the verdict can be expected to be handed down a few weeks later. AFP