Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius will resume testifying after saying it was an “accident” when he fired four hollow-point bullets into a cubicle in his bathroom that killed his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
“I had my finger on the trigger, it was an accident what happened,” Pistorius, 27, told the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, yesterday. “I didn’t intend to shoot anyone. I fired my firearm before I could think, before I even had a moment to comprehend what was happening.”
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said Pistorius was tailoring his evidence to protect himself and urged him to “give us the truth and not think of the implications for you.” He chided the athlete for getting “emotional” when asked difficult questions.
Pistorius, the double amputee Paralymic gold medalist who denies charges of murdering Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, made the statement during his first day of cross-examination by Nel. Judge Thokozile Masipa will give a final judgment in the case because South Africa doesn’t have a jury system. She could consider a lesser charge of culpable homicide.
Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius has been free on 1 million rand ($96,000) bail since February last year. He is also facing three gun-related charges.
After the prosecution pressed Pistorius about presenting his testimony in the most favorable light, he responded, “my life is on the line, of course I think of every single word I say when I’m sitting here.” He didn’t look at Nel and focused on the judge through the cross-examination.
Nel responded: “Reeva doesn’t have a life anymore because of what you’ve done. She’s not alive anymore. So please listen to the questions and give us the truth and not think of the implications for you, Mr. Pistorius.”
Pistorius looked away when a photograph of his girlfriend’s bloodied head was presented in court and broadcast live on television as Nel pressed him to “take responsibility” for killing her.
“That’s it, have a look there, I know you don’t want to because you don’t want to take responsibility, but it’s time that you look at it,” Nel said. “Take responsibility for what you’ve done, Mr. Pistorius.”
Marius du Toit, a criminal defense lawyer in Pretoria and a former judge, said it was “unprofessional” for Nel to show the photograph, which provoked gasps in the court gallery.
“You don’t have to stoop so low,” he said in a phone interview. “He was aiming to get Oscar on the back foot, but the way he went about it was wrong.”
Nel sought to undermine defense lawyer Barry Roux’s portrayal of Pistorius as a religious man with a deep fear of crime who was in a loving relationship with Steenkamp.
The prosecutor questioned him about a video in which Pistorius is seen shooting shotguns and pistols with friends. When one of his shots hit a watermelon and caused it to explode, Pistorius can be heard saying, “It’s a lot softer than brains” and “it’s like a zombie stopper.”
Then Nel, who has tried to show Pistorius as a short-tempered gun-lover reckless with his firearms, said, “you know that the same happened to Reeva’s head? It exploded.”
“Every little bit that was achieved by the stories of what a good Samaritan Oscar was and how he loves animals and of him being a good Christian, any good that had, was beyond reversed by the approach that Nel took in equating him firing at a watermelon to what he did to Reeva,” Grant said by phone.
Earlier, Pistorius battled through tears as he described carrying the bloody body of his girlfriend.
Steenkamp was hit in the arm, hip and head and died in Pistorius’s home following the shooting after 3 a.m. on Feb. 14 last year. The prosecution has argued he fired the pistol after an argument, with neighbors testifying they heard a woman screaming before and after gunshots.
The trial, which is being broadcast live on radio and TV, started on March 3. Only audio broadcast of Pistorius’s testimony is allowed.
Steenkamp was standing when the first hollow-point bullet broke her hip bone, then she fell on top of a magazine rack in the toilet, police ballistics expert Chris Mangena said in testimony on March 19. She was struck by two more bullets after a pause, he said.
The charges have derailed the running career of the winner of six Paralympic gold medals and cost Pistorius sponsorship deals with Nike Inc. (NKE), Luxottica Group SpA (LUX)’s Oakley and Ossur hf, the Icelandic company that manufacturers the blades he uses.