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Pistorius trial starts today

SHERRYLYN CLARKE, [email protected]

Pistorius trial starts today

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PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) – The murder trial of Oscar Pistorius, set to open today, marks the start of a dramatic new chapter in the life of the double-amputee athlete who ran at the Olympics and became a global star before he shot his girlfriend to death.
Prosecutors charged the 27-year-old Pistorius with murder in Reeva Steenkamp’s death and say it was with premeditation. They say they will seek a life sentence if Pistorius is convicted, the sternest punishment available in South Africa. South Africa no longer has the death penalty.
The intense public interest in the Pistorius trial is shown by the launching last night of a 24-hour cable channel devoted to covering the court case.
If convicted on the murder charge, Pistorius could be sent to prison for at least 25 years before the chance of parole, the minimum time someone must serve if given a life sentence in South Africa. He would be older than 50 before he could be released.
The state says Pistorius intentionally killed Steenkamp at his home in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day last year by shooting her through a toilet door after an argument. Pistorius denies murder and says he killed his girlfriend by mistake when he fired four times through the door thinking there was a dangerous night time intruder on the other side.
A lesser sentence is possible if Pistorius is found guilty of murder but without premeditation. He also could be convicted of culpable homicide, South Africa’s version of manslaughter in which someone is killed through negligence.
Pistorius claims he was acting in self-defence against what he believed at the time was a threat to his life.
As well as murder, Pistorius faces a second charge of illegal possession of ammunition for bullets found at his Pretoria house that he allegedly didn’t have proper licensing for. Prosecutors say he also will be indicted today with two more gun charges relating to him allegedly shooting in public on two separate occasions before Steenkamp’s killing.