A bail hearing for former Olympian Oscar Pistorius will continue into a third day, decided Magistrate Desmond Nair after the conclusion of a second day of testimony in a Pretoria courtroom.
Pistorius, the athlete who became known as “blade runner” because of his artificial legs, is accused of premeditated murder. Prosecutors say he shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, while she was hiding in the bathroom of his east Pretoria home. On Tuesday, court heard the defence argument that Pistorius mistook Steenkamp for a burglar as he fired four shots through the locked bathroom door.
In testimony Wednesday, the court heard from investigating officer Hilton Botha. He testified that shots hit Steenkamp on her right-hand side, indicating she was not sitting on the toilet when she was shot, as the defence has argued. He suggested that she may have been in a different position and possibly hiding, reports The Guardian. Botha also noted that the toilet was to the left of the door, so Pistorius would have had to fire diagonally, were he to hit her through the locked door.
He also said that the bullets appeared to have been fired down, indicating that Pistorius would have had his prosthetic legs on while he fired the shots. If this is the case, it would contradict the prosecution’s version of the events, which say that Pistorius did not have his artificial legs on when he shot Steenkamp. “When you don’t have your prosthesis on you are more vulnerable,” defence lawyer Barry Roux told the court on Wednesday, reports local paper The Mail and Guardian. The results of ballistics tests, which will indicate the angle from which Pistorius fired the shots, are not yet ready.
Also on Wednesday, Brotha said police had two witness, one who said she had heard arguing and another who said he heard shots and a woman screaming on the night of the shooting, between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.
The defence attempted to discredit Brotha’s testimony and it is already drawing attention to his team’s conduct at the crime scene. Several media outlets, including The Telegraph, have noted that the defence seems to be better prepared than the state. The defence argued that the witness who said she heard screaming was about 600 metres away from Pistorius’ home, and that she wouldn’t be able to accurately determine where the argument came from. “Towards the end of the cross-examination, the state’s case was looking pretty thin,” said Telegraph reporter Aislinn Laing.
Court also heard evidence of an earlier gun incident involving Pistorius. Former media reports saying that Pistorius fired a gun in a restaurant in Johannesburg were confirmed.
During his testimony, Botha said that testosterone and needles were found at Pistorius’ home during the investigation, but Pistorius’ defence said the shots were a legal, herbal supplement and did not indicate that the athlete was doping, reports The New York Times.
The court got off to a late start on its second day, largely because of the huge amount of public interest in the case. On the first day of the bail hearing, many members of the media couldn’t get into the courtroom. The judge promised to open up an overflow room for media during the second day of the bail hearing, but that room wasn’t ready initially. It was further complicated by members of the public who also wanted to sit in the overflow room, reports BBC News. “An orderly line outside at Pretoria Magistrate’s Court C quickly turned into a shoving match as confused officials struggled to come up with a plan to determine who should get the few seats available inside the red brick courtroom,” writes Andrew Harding at BBC News.
The prosecution is arguing that Pistorius is a flight risk and should not be granted bail, but Magistrate Nair questioned this near the end of the day.
“Can I just say, the accused before court is an international athlete, paralympic athlete, he uses prosthesis on both legs,” Nair said to Brotha. “I’m sure we would both agree that his face is widely recognized internationally. Do you subjectively believe that he would take the opportunity, being who he is, using prosthesics to get around, to flee South Africa?”
Brotha answered that yes, he thought Pistorius had the means to flee. Some members of the court laughed at this suggestion.
Court will resume Thursday at 11 a.m. local time.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013