Oscar Pistorius’s Trial Hears Gun-Toting Athlete Drove Cars FastPaul Burkhardt
Paralympian Oscar Pistorius constantly fidgeted, carried a gun and drove fast to avoid carjackings, his agent said at the athlete’s trial for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day last year.
Pistorius had “a heightened sense of awareness,” Peet Van Zyl told the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, before it adjourned today. “He was always looking around asking his housekeeper if the front door was locked, always fidgeting.”
Double-amputee Pistorius, 27, says he thought Steenkamp was an intruder when he fired four shots through a locked toilet cubicle door in a bathroom at his home. The prosecution says he killed her after an argument. Pistorius would face a minimum of 25 years in jail if convicted of murder.
The murder trial resumed yesterday after a monthlong break with Prosecutor Gerrie Nel reading from the report of three psychiatrists and a psychologist who carried out an evaluation to determine whether Pistorius was competent to stand trial for killing Steenkamp.
“Mr. Pistorius did not suffer from a mental defect or mental illness at the time of the commission of the offense that would have rendered him criminally not responsible for the offenses charged,” Nel told the court yesterday, reading from the report.
Nel had requested the assessment after a forensic psychiatrist, Merryll Vorster, called by the defense, said Pistorius has a generalized anxiety disorder that may have affected his actions when he shot Steenkamp.
Defense attorney Barry Roux has portrayed Pistorius as a victim of crime who was in a loving relationship with Steenkamp. Nel has tried to show him as a short-tempered gun-lover who shot his girlfriend in a fit of rage.
Today, Van Zyl, who was called as a character witness by Roux, described Pistorius as “always kind, courteous” and “a very astute businessman.”
When Van Zyl noticed Pistorius had a weapon in 2012, “he specifically said he’s carrying a gun because he’s fearing for his own safety.”
Earlier, another defense witness Ivan Lin, an acoustics engineer, said that four neighbors who testified previously that they heard a woman scream couldn’t have been 100 percent certain it wasn’t a man.
“I do believe they heard a sound, but I cannot say they’re correct or incorrect,” he said. “It’s not for me to interpret that.”
Pistorius denies the murder charge and has pleaded not guilty to three separate gun-related charges.
Judge Thokozile Masipa, who will give the final judgment in the case because South Africa doesn’t have a jury system, could also consider a lesser charge of culpable homicide if she rules that the act wasn’t intentional.
Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius has been free on 1 million rand ($94,000) bail since February last year.
The charges have derailed the running career of the winner of six Paralympic gold medals and cost Pistorius sponsorship deals with Nike Inc., Luxottica Group SpA’s Oakley and Ossur hf, the Icelandic company that manufactures the blades he uses.
Pistorius was the first double amputee to compete at the Olympic Games in London in 2012.