Charges against Oscar Pistorius should be downgraded, defence argues at bail hearing

News of charges against lead investigator overshadow proceedings


Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius's father Henke Pistorius, right, with daughter Aimee, left, during his bail hearing at the magistrate court in Pretoria, South Africa, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013. (Themba Hadebe/AP)

The biggest news from the third day of the bail hearing for Olympain Oscar Pistorius came from outside the court, as The Associated Press reported that the lead investigator in the case, Detective Hilton Botha, is facing attempted murder charges stemming from a shooting in 2011.

Inside the Pretoria courtroom, prosecutor Gerrie Nel confirmed that the reports about Botha were, indeed, true, but said that the prosecution didn’t know about the charges when they called him to the witness stand on the previous day.

After Nel addressed the charges, Botha entered the courtroom where he took the stand again to be questioned about phone records by Magistrate Desmond Nair. Police found several phones at the scene of the shooting, but Brotha said he had not yet received the phone records for both Pistorius and his slain girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp and there was, at present, no way to tell whether calls had been made between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. when the shooting took place.

Lead defence counsel Barry Roux continued to argue that the charges against Pistorius should be downgraded to a lesser charge. The current charge of premeditated murder, alleging that Pistorius planned to shoot and kill Steenkamp on the night of Feb. 14, carries the greatest possible sentence of 25 years in prison. The downgraded charges the defence is pushing for — from “schedule 6” to “schedule 5” as the South African justice system calls it — would also make it more likely for Pistorius to be granted bail.

Roux also presented his closing arguments and made his case for granting Pistorius bail, saying that Pistorius showed that he wanted to save Steenkamp when he carried her downstairs, from the bathroom where he shot her after he mistook her for an intruder. (The prosecution argued Wednesday that the position of Steenkamp’s body showed that she was likely hiding behind the locked door, not using the toilet, as the defence argues.) Roux also refuted evidence from the previous day where witnesses said they heard arguing from Pistorius’ home on the night of the shooting.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel then delivered his final arguments, saying the defence has “failed to provide any examples of exceptional circumstances” which should allow Pistorius to be granted bail. Nel argued that Pistorius is “a man of means” and that he has the money to flee South Africa, should he choose to do so, and he should not be granted bail.

Court adjourned after both lawyers gave their closing arguments. A decision as to whether Pistorius should be granted bail is likely to occur Friday when court resumes at 10 a.m. local time.

Also on Thursday, The Associated Press reported that Nike has suspended its contract with Pistorius. “We believe Oscar Pistorius should be afforded due process and we will continue to monitor the situation closely,” the company said in a statement on its website.

Sponsor Oakley has also suspended its contract with the athlete.

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