Man, Superman, Gunman? The Oscar Pistorious Murder Trial
The trial of the world-famous Olympic double-amputee Oscar Pistorious began March 3rd, 2014. The Blade Runner has pleaded not guilty to the premeditated murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
Pistorious has admitted that yes, it was he who fired the shots through the door that killed Steenkamp, but he says he mistook her for an intruder in his Pretoria, South Africa house on Valentines night 2013. He insists that he did not know it was her in the water closet until after he had fired the four shots through the door.
The question the judge (South Africa does not operate on a jury system) will have to decide will be, was Pistorious really afraid for his life and shot through the door in self-defense, or was it an argument that escalated and ended in murder? Did Pistorious snap in a rage and shoot Steenkamp or was he asleep when Steenkamp woke up to use the restroom in the night, startling him to the point of shooting whoever was behind that door?
Pretoria, South Africa is a city where its residents never feel fully safe, despite their many security measures with neighborhood gates with guards, barbed wire, fences, and security systems. Burglars are a commonality in Pistorious neighborhood, and without his prosthetic legs on while sleeping, he feels especially vulnerable. He has been a victim of burglaries prior, and says that he has even received death threats. If these allegations can be proved by the defense, could his claims that he was so startled and scared that he grabbed his gun when he heard noises coming from his bathroom be credible to the judge? Or could it all be a defense story that covers up a murder? The state claims that theres no question this was a premeditated, cold-blooded murder, and in the trial, they claim to have damning evidence on both Steenkamp and Pistoriouss phones.
In the court affidavit, Pistorious stated:
I felt a sense of terror rushing over me. There are no burglar bars across the bathroom window and I knew that contractors who worked at my house had left the ladders outside. It filled me with horror and fear of an intruder or intruders being inside the toilet. I thought he or they must have entered through the unprotected window. As I did not have my prosthetic legs on and felt extremely vulnerable, I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself. I grabbed my 9mm pistol from underneath my bed. On my way to the bathroom I screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in bed. I fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to Reeva to phone the police. She did not respond and I moved backwards out of the bathroom, keeping my eyes on the bathroom entrance. Everything was pitch dark in the bedroom and I was still too scared to switch on a light. Reeva was not responding. When I reached the bed, I realized that Reeva was not in bed.”
From there, he says he put his prosthetic legs on and busted open the door of the water closet to find Reeva slumped over in a pool of blood. She was still alive at that moment, so he picked her up and carried her downstairs where she died in his arms.
The state does not believe Pistorious account of what happened that night; they are convinced that in an argument (perhaps over jealousy regarding Steenkamps recent contact with an ex-boyfriend), Steenkamp retreated to the master bathroom, when Pistorious put on his prosthetic legs and went after her in a rage, killing her.
A conviction of first-degree murder in South Africa comes with a mandatory life sentence. If he is found guilty of a lesser charge, culpable homicide, a 15-year prison sentence will be enforced.
South Africa has called Pistorious trial the trial of the century. The judge has allowed part of the trial to be televised, but testimony from some witnesses and Pistorious himself will be omitted from the broadcast. The trial is expected to last three weeks. Updates to come.
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