Monday 24 November 2014

Trial 'tough time' for Pistorius

Published 25/03/2014 | 08:37

Oscar Pistorius, centre, arrives with relatives at the high court in Pretoria (AP)
Oscar Pistorius, centre, arrives with relatives at the high court in Pretoria (AP)

Oscar Pistorius has said said he is going through "a tough time" in a rare comment after the prosecution closed its case against the double-amputee runner for the killing of his girlfriend.

Pistorius is likely to open the defence case at the end of the week, lawyer Brian Webber said, adding that there is no specific requirement for him to give evidence first but it is normal practice.

"I don't think we have a choice, it's a question of when," Mr Webber said of Pistorius's evidence, which legal experts describe as critical because the judge will have a chance to assess first hand whether he is a credible witness.

Judge Thokozile Masipa will deliver a ruling in the case with the help of two assessors. There is no jury system in South Africa.

After the prosecution closed its case, defence lawyer Barry Roux asked for time to consult some of the 107 state witnesses who had not given evidence in the case against Pistorius, who is accused of the premeditated murder of Reeva Steenkamp, who he shot through the closed door of a toilet cubicle last year.

Judge Masipa adjourned the trial until Friday so Mr Roux could prepare his arguments that Pistorius, 27, killed the 29-year-old model by accident, thinking she was an intruder in his home.

Pistorius has sometimes reacted emotionally during the prosecution's case, shedding tears this week during evidence of text messages he and Steenkamp exchanged in the weeks before he killed her in the early hours of February 14 last year.

In earlier evidence, he retched and vomited at a pathologist's descriptions of Steenkamp's gunshot wounds. At other times, he has appeared calm, taking notes during testimony and conferring with his lawyers during breaks.

The Olympian once basked in global publicity stemming from his achievements on the track and but became an almost silent, somewhat cryptic figure after he killed Steenkamp, his account only outlined in legal statements that were carefully tailored by his legal team.

Today he made brief comments to reporters after the court adjourned: "It's a tough time. We've got a lot ahead of us."

Earlier, Mr Roux sought to show that Pistorius had a loving relationship with the girlfriend he killed, referring to telephone messages in which they exchanged warm compliments and said they missed each other.

The evidence contrasted with several messages read in court a day earlier in which Pistorius and Steenkamp argued in the weeks before he shot her, part of the prosecution's effort to bolster its case that the athlete killed his girlfriend after an argument. In those messages, Steenkamp told the runner that she was sometimes scared by his behaviour, which included jealous outbursts in front of other people.

Mr Roux said the tense messages amounted to a tiny fraction of roughly 1,700 that police Captain Francois Moller, a mobile phone expert, extracted from the mobile devices of the couple. Mr Roux noted a January 19 exchange in which Steenkamp sent Pistorius a photo of herself in a hoodie and making a kissing face, followed by the message: "You like it?"

"I love it," Pistorius said, according to the message.

"So warm," Steenkamp responded.

Mr Roux was also granted permission to show CCTV video which showed Pistorius and Steenkamp kissing in a convenience store.

Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel questioned the relevance of showing the shop video, saying he could ask for a courtroom viewing of another video that shows Pistorius at a gun range, firing a shotgun and using a pistol to shoot a watermelon, which bursts on impact.

Mr Nel also said that many messages of affection between the couple were brief, in contrast to the texted arguments, which were far longer and dwelled on their relationship in greater depth.

Press Association

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