Pistorius Expected To Testify At His Murder Trial

By: CBS News Copy Email
By: CBS News Copy Email

News Release: CBS3/Associated Press News
Updated: March 25, 2014, 6pm

By CARLEY PETESCH and CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA
Associated Press

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) - Oscar Pistorius will probably testify at his trial later this week, a defense attorney said Tuesday after prosecutors rested their case against the double-amputee runner who is accused of murder in his girlfriend's death.

In a rare public comment, Pistorius said he was going through "a tough time" as the case advanced.

"We've got a lot ahead of us," he told reporters after the court adjourned.

Defense lawyer Brian Webber said Pistorius is "likely" to take the stand to open the defense case.

"I don't think we have a choice. It's a question of when," Webber said of Pistorius' testimony, which legal experts describe as critical because the judge will have a chance to assess firsthand whether he is credible. The case will be decided by Judge Thokozile Masipa with help from two assessors. South African courts do not have a jury system.

After the prosecution rested, defense lawyer Barry Roux asked for time to consult some of the 107 state witnesses who had not testified against Pistorius, who admits shooting Reeva Steenkamp through the closed door of a toilet cubicle last year.

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

Pistorius has sometimes reacted emotionally in the courtroom. He shed tears this week during testimony about text messages that he and Steenkamp exchanged in the weeks before her death on Feb. 14, 2013. In earlier testimony, he retched and vomited at a pathologist's description of Steenkamp's gunshot wounds. At other times, he has appeared calm, taking notes during testimony and conferring with his lawyers during breaks.

The 27-year-old Olympian once basked in global publicity stemming from his achievements on the track but became an almost silent, somewhat cryptic figure after Steenkamp's death, his account only outlined in legal statements that were carefully tailored by his high-powered legal team.

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

The testimony contrasted with several messages read in court a day earlier in which Pistorius and Steenkamp argued, part of the prosecution's effort to demonstrate that the athlete killed his girlfriend after an intense disagreement. In those messages, Steenkamp told the runner that she was sometimes scared by his behavior, which included jealous outbursts in front of other people.

Roux noted that the tense messages amounted to a tiny fraction of the roughly 1,700 texts that police Capt. Francois Moller, a cellphone expert, extracted from the couple's mobile devices. Roux noted a Jan. 19 exchange in which Reeva sent Pistorius a photo of herself in a hoodie and making a kissing face and asked, "You like it?"

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

"So warm," Steenkamp responded.

Roux was also granted permission to show video broadcast by Sky News that showed Pistorius and Steenkamp kissing in a convenience store.

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

Nel also said 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.

Earlier, Moller said Steenkamp connected to the Internet on her cellphone hours before Pistorius killed her. She made the connection just before 9 p.m. on Feb. 13, 2013, and the connection lasted for more than 11 hours, possibly because social media programs were still open.

Moller's extraction of data also shed light on what appeared to be frantic calls made from one of Pistorius' cellphones after the killing. They included a call to the administrator of the housing estate where Pistorius lived at 3:19 a.m. on Feb. 14, a call a minute later to an ambulance service and a call a minute after that to the housing estate security.



CBS News Copy

PRETORIA, South Africa -- Oscar Pistorius vomited in the dock at his murder trial Monday as he heard graphic details of the injuries sustained by the girlfriend he fatally shot.

The testimony of Prof. Gert Saayman, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Reeva Steenkamp's body, was not broadcast or reported live on Twitter by journalists because of its explicit content under an order from Judge Thokozile Masipa. However, journalists were allowed to report the testimony without directly quoting the witness.

The double-amputee runner, hunched over on a bench, reacted to the description of Steenkamp's wounds by vomiting and retching repeatedly, prompting Masipa to briefly halt the testimony to ask chief defense lawyer Barry Roux to attend to his client. The judge also asked whether Pistorius was able to understand the proceedings. Roux said Pistorius' reaction was not going to change. A bucket was placed at his feet.

Saayman stood for much of his time on the stand, referring to photographs that were not shown to the gallery as he described bullet wounds on Steenkamp's body, one to the right side of the head, one to the right arm and one to the right hip area. He also described exit wounds caused by the bullets and other abrasions and discoloration of the skin, consistent with the impact of a bullet fired through a wooden object such as a door.

There was another wound on one of Steenkamp's hands, Saayman said. Steenkamp, a model and personality on a television reality show, was wearing a pair of sports shorts with a Nike logo and a black vest when she was shot, he said.

Pistorius, the first amputee to run in the Olympics, is charged with premeditated murder for 29-year-old Steenkamp's shooting death before dawn on Feb. 14, 2013. Pistorius, 27, says the killing was accidental because he thought his girlfriend was a dangerous intruder when he shot her through the door of a toilet cubicle in his home.

Earlier, prosecutor Gerrie Nel, supported by chief defense lawyer Barry Roux, said Saayman's testimony would have an "explicitly graphic nature" and should not be shown around the world. Masipa then announced a ban on live audio and video broadcasting, and extended the order to live reporting on social media.

"Twitter is not allowed. Blogging is not allowed," Masipa said.

Proceedings can be partly televised and the audio can be broadcast in its entirety under a judge's pre-trial order that sought to balance the right to a fair trial with the intense public interest in the Pistorius case and the principle of open justice. Under the order, some witnesses can choose not to be shown on television.

Earlier Monday, Masipa extended that order, saying "private witnesses are more vulnerable than public figures" and that still photographs of witnesses who requested some discretion cannot be published or disseminated for the duration of the trial, even if they were obtained from sources outside the courtroom.

Pistorius' ex-girlfriend testifies Olympian was unfaithful
The new ruling followed the publication in a South African media outlet last week of a photo of a witness whose image was lifted from a publicly accessible website.

Before the adjournment Monday, a security guard who said he spoke with Pistorius soon after the shooting of Steenkamp was challenged by the defense about his recollection of the sequences of the events that night.

The sequence is important for the defense because, if it can prove that Pistorius called security first, it could support the contention that he was seeking help as quickly as possible.

The guard, Pieter Baba, had testified Friday that he called Pistorius and was told "everything is fine" on the telephone. Baba said Pistorius then called him back moments later, didn't speak, was crying and the second call then ended.

Baba said he was responding to neighbors' reports of gunshots coming from Pistorius' home after 3 a.m. on Valentine's Day last year. He drove with a fellow guard to Pistorius' villa and made the call from outside the house.

Baba's statement that he called Pistorius first could back the prosecution's case that the killing was premeditated, and that Pistorius was trying, at least initially, to conceal what he had done.

On Monday, however, Roux said call records showed Pistorius called security first, but couldn't speak because he was "indeed crying."

"I'm the one who called him first," Baba insisted.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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