Pistorius Gets Bail Before Murder Trial of GirlfriendAndres R. Martinez
Oscar Pistorius, the South African double amputee track star, was released on bail of 1 million rand ($113,000) before his trial for the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Magistrate Desmond Nair told Pistorius, 26, to pay 100,000 rand in cash and prove he has the rest. He must surrender his passports and firearms, not return to his home and reside at an undisclosed place agreed to by his defense attorney, and report to the Brooklyn police station in Pretoria between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. local time every Monday and Friday. His next court appearance is June 4.
“We are relieved of the fact that Oscar got bail today,” Arnold Pistorius, the athlete’s uncle, told reporters at the court. “At the same time we are in mourning at the death of Reeva with her family.”
During the four-day hearing, the prosecution disputed the athlete’s evidence that he thought Steenkamp, 29, was a burglar when he shot her in a locked toilet at his Pretoria home on Feb.
14. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said the couple had been arguing before the shooting and the alleged murder was premeditated, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison if Pistorius is convicted.
Pistorius is staying at his uncle’s home in Pretoria and plans to speak to Steenkamp’s family probably tomorrow, Arnold Pistorius said in an interview broadcast on eNews Channel Africa.
“Oscar is still devastated,” he said. “If you’ve been instrumental in the death of your beloved one, I cannot think of anything worse that can happen to you.”
Pistorius’s family yelled out “yes” in unison when Nair granted bail after two hours of summarizing the arguments made at the hearing. The athlete, known as “Blade Runner” because of his prosthetic running blades, showed little emotion before being removed from the court. His brother, Carl, led about 25 family members in prayer in a circle in the front row of the courtroom gallery after bail was granted.
Nair said he didn’t think Pistorius is a flight risk and the state didn’t provide enough proof in arguing he had a propensity to violence and would attempt to influence witnesses.
“I come to the conclusion the accused has made a case to be released on bail,” he said.
The judge said Hilton Botha, the police’s lead investigator in the case, made a series of errors, including possibly contaminating the crime scene, not checking for other mobile phones owned by Pistorius and misidentifying substances found at his home as testosterone.
Still, this “doesn’t mean the state’s case isn’t strong,” Nair said.
Botha was removed from the case yesterday after prosecutors said they’ve reinstated attempted murder charges against him for an incident in 2011 when he allegedly shot at a minibus taxi. The police appointed their top detective, Vinesh Moonoo, to replace Botha on the Pistorius case.
Nair also said he had “difficulties” with some of the defense’s account. He said he found it hard to understand why Pistorius didn’t try to find out where his girlfriend was when he believed there was an intruder in the house, and why he didn’t call out to the person behind the closed toilet door before shooting at it.
The state is still “confident” of its case and the granting of bail doesn’t mean an acquittal, Medupe Simasiku, spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, told reporters at the court.
Pistorius, who was born without fibulas and had both legs amputated below the knee at 11 months old, won six Paralympic gold medals. He became the first amputee runner to compete at an Olympic Games in London last year and was included on Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most-influential people.
Since the shooting more than a week ago, Pistorius has lost sponsorships with Nike Inc., the world’s largest sporting-goods company, Luxottica Group SpA’s Oakley and Clarins SA’s Thierry Mugler perfume brand.