Pistorius Murder-Trial Lawyers to Present Their Final ArgumentsAndre Janse van Vuuren
Prosecutors will be first to deliver arguments and field questions from the judge overseeing the trial of Oscar Pistorius, who killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, when it resumes today.
State prosecutor Gerrie Nel for the state and defense lawyer Barry Roux filed final arguments after Judge Thokozile Masipa adjourned the Paralympian’s hearing on July 8. The documents, which she prohibited from being published before they are presented in court, will form the basis of her questioning, said Marius du Toit, a criminal defense lawyer based in Pretoria, the capital.
“These arguments are so important,” he said by phone on Aug. 4. “This is your last effort in swaying the court’s opinion. This is crucial for both the state and the defense.” Once the state has argued its case, the defense will have a chance to refute, and each party will then have an opportunity to respond, with the process taking about three days, he said.
Pistorius, 27, has pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder and 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.
Throughout the 39-day trial at the High Court in Pretoria, which started on March 3, defense lawyer Roux portrayed Pistorius as a victim of crime who was in a loving relationship with Steenkamp.
Prosecutor Nel depicted Pistorius as a short-tempered gun-lover who shot Steenkamp in a fit of rage.
The athlete has also pleaded not guilty to three separate gun-related charges.
Judge 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.
Masipa may take a month to return a verdict, Du Toit said. “It might take even longer,” he said. “Because of the importance of this case, we might get back in a month or two.”
Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius has been free on 1 million rand ($93,000) bail since February last year.
The athlete and his cousin were involved in an altercation at a nightclub in the weathly northern Johannesburg suburb of Sandton last month when they were approached by a man who “aggressively interrogated him” about the murder trial, spokeswoman Anneliese Burgess said on July 14. An argument ensued and Pistorius soon left the club, she said.
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.