Pistorius expected to testify at his murder trial
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.