Wednesday February 20, 2013
Pistorius back in court in fight for bail
PRETORIA - "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius returned to court Wednesday facing a tough fight to win bail, with the prosecution set to call on police evidence to flesh out charges he deliberately murdered his girlfriend on Valentine's Day.
Shortly after dawn, Pistorius made his now familiar trip from Brooklyn police station to the Pretoria magistrate's court, for what promises to be another emotion-filled day.
Day one of the bail hearing on Tuesday was dominated by the Olympic and Paralympic hero tearfully denying the premeditated murder of model Reeva Steenkamp.
Pistorius told the court he shot at the covergirl through a locked bathroom door, mistakenly believing she was a burglar. "I had no intention to kill my girlfriend," he said.
Day two is expected to shine more light on the prosecution case for premeditated murder, a charge that risks a life sentence.
"The main point is giving our side of the story," National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Medupe Simasiku told AFP.
With only the suspect and the victim in the house at the time of the alleged murder, the state's case is expected to focus heavily on forensic evidence and witnesses who are alleged to have heard the couple argue.
The prosecution was repeatedly chastised by magistrate Desmond Nair on Tuesday for failing to bring a bail recommendation and for its line of argument.
Nair responded with a curt "so what" to the prosecution's insistence that Pistorius had armed himself, put on his prosthetic legs and walked seven metres before firing the shots.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel had argued that chain of events suggested Pistorius deliberately fired four shots into the bathroom door, hitting a terrified Steenkamp three times and fatally wounding her.
"She could go nowhere," Nel said. "She locked the door for a purpose."
On Tuesday the 26-year-old double amputee track star broke down in tears repeatedly as his own words from his own affidavit filled the court: "We were deeply in love and couldn't be more happy.
"I am absolutely mortified by the events and the devastating loss of my beloved Reeva," Pistorius said in his first public comments on the killing.
As the court hearing proceeded Tuesday, the 29-year-old Steenkamp was laid to rest at an emotional private ceremony at a crematorium in her hometown of Port Elizabeth.
Pistorius was an inspiration to millions when he became the first double amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in the Olympics in London last year.
Pistorius said he had awoken in the dead of night early last Thursday when he heard a noise at his upscale Pretoria home
"Filled with horror and fear" that someone was in the bathroom, he said he felt "very vulnerable" because he did not have his prosthetic legs on.
He said he fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to his girlfriend to phone the police, but then realised it could have been Steenkamp in the bathroom.
After smashing the door with a cricket bat, Pistorius said "Reeva was slumped over but alive".
He said he kept a firearm under his bed at night because he had been a victim of violence and burglaries before and had received death threat.
Magistrate Nair said he could not rule out that there was some planning involved in the killing, which may be considered as a premeditated murder, setting a high bar for bail.
But Pistorius's legal team rejected the claims as he sought to argue he was not a flight risk.
Pistorius, who off the track has had a rocky private life with stories of rash behaviour, beautiful women, guns and fast cars, has built up a powerful team of lawyers, medical specialists and public relations experts for his defence.
In 2009 Pistorius - who once admitted to a newspaper that he slept with a pistol, machine gun, cricket bat and baseball bat for fear of burglars - spent a night in jail after allegedly assaulting a 19-year-old woman at a party.
Pistorius, a Paralympian gold medallist, became the first double amputee to run against able-bodied athletes at last year's Olympics in London on the carbon-fibre running blades that inspired his nickname.
But his career has been put on hold since the shooting, forcing him to cancel races in Australia, Brazil, Britain and the United States between March and May.
Pistorius revealed he earned 5.6 million rand ($640,000) a year and owned the $570,000 house in the gated estate where the killing took place as well as two other homes.
But two of the athlete's American sponsors, Nike and sunglasses maker Oakley, announced they were dropping Pistorius from their advertising campaigns, which have earned him millions of dollars in endorsements. - AFP