New documents have been released on the eve of the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius, the famous South African sprinter nicknamed the “Blade Runner.” The information may help bolster his claim of innocence. He goes on trial on March 3. World attention and scrutiny is starting to mount as the Oscar Pistorius murder trial draws near.
Pistorius is charged with the murder of long time girlfriend model Reeva Steencamp, age 29, on February 12, 2013. Pistorius has maintained his innocence from the moment the tragic event occurred.
Prosecutors contend that Pistorius, 27, intentionally shot and killed Steenkamp through a locked bathroom door after the two were mixed up in a domestic dispute. Under South African law, if convicted, Pistorius could face a minimum of 25 years in prison before he would be eligible for parole.
The athlete says he was frightened by noises during the middle of the night by what he thought was an intruder who was perhaps armed. In a moment of fear and panic, he asserts that he fired four times through a closed bathroom door. Steenkamp was in the bathroom at the time and was killed. Prosecutors believe it was an intentional homicide. In Pistorius’ defense, South Africa does have a high degree of violence and robberies, even in guarded communities.
Newer prosecution court documents also reveal that Pistorius was most likely on his stumps when he squeezed the trigger. Apparently the prosecution’s own ballistics experts confirm that Pistorius was not wearing his prosthetic legs at the moment he fired. Further he may have actually fired at a distance greater than at first reported by police. The significance of that, if true, is that it adds more credibility to Pistorius’ claim that he was terrorized and did not calmly put on his prosthetic legs before the shooting, indicating a degree of premeditation and planning. These documents provide a preview as the Oscar Pistorius murder trial draws near.
On the other hand, prosecutors believe they have a strong case against Pistorius. Reports are that neighbor witnesses will testify that they heard someone screaming that night and a security guard who will indicates that Pistorius said everything was “fine” even after the event.
As the Oscar Pistorius murder trial draws near the pressure against him is mounting. It is estimated that some 100 persons will give testimony including relative, friends and neighbors. There will also be a battalion of ballistics, forensic and medical experts.
Prosecutors are also trying to get Pistorius’ mobile phone records to see if the contents shed any evidentiary light. Investigators discovered two Blackberrys and two iPhones and on the bathroom floor of the living area that Pistorius and Steenkamp shared.
When he was 11 years old, both of Pistorius’ legs were amputated below the knee. Nevertheless, he grew up to become a world class sprinter and entered events for both the disabled and able bodied runners. He made headlines during the 2012 Summer Olympics Pistorius when he took part in the men’s 400 meters 400 meters relay races.
Pistorious was granted bail on February 22, 2013. The trial is expected to last at least three weeks. Of note is that, unlike many other countries, a jury will not be hearing the evidence in a murder trial but a single High Court judge. Pistorius’ fate will be in the hands of female judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa, who is the second black woman to be admitted to the South African bench since apartheid. There is also pressure to televise the trial with a decision on that expected soon.
In addition to the magnet of Pistorius’ celebrity, the case has attracted worldwide attention due to some of the other aspects of the case, namely domestic violence and gun laws in South Africa. Many women activists did not want Pistorious released on bail.
According to reports, Pistorius has been consumed with trial preparation almost full time since his last hearing, including working with a team of American forensic experts. The prosecution is expected to have some 50 criminal experts and police officers alone at their disposal to testify about certain aspects of the case. All eyes are on South Africa as the Oscar Pistorius murder trial draws near.
By Jim McCullaugh