Oscar Pistorius Case: Bail Hearing Hints at Dramatic Trial to Come
(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- As prosecutors outlined their case against South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius on Wednesday, providing details that they say indicate a premeditated act of murder against his girlfriend, his lawyers swatted at each bit of evidence on the dramatic second day of a bail hearing that will likely foreshadow the upcoming trial.
The Johannesburg courtroom sat riveted as police investigators said that Pistorius, a double-amputee who gained global acclaim for racing at the 2012 London Olympics, shot his girlfriend through a closed bathroom door at a high angle from which he had to be wearing his prosthetic legs.
Prosecutors insisted that Pistorius took a moment to put the legs on, indicating that he thought out and planned to kill Reeva Steenkamp, his model girlfriend, when he shot her three times through a closed bathroom door early on the morning of Valentine's Day.
There was a "deliberate aiming of shots at the toilet from about 1.5 meters [about 5 feet]," prosecutor Gerrie Nel said.
Nel said Pistorius fired four shots into the bathroom, hitting Steenkamp three times in the head, elbow, and hip.
Nel also said a witness would testify to hearing "non-stop talking, like shouting" in the early hours before the dawn shooting.
Pistorius' lawyer, who argued Tuesday that the runner accidentally fired on Steenkamp believing she was an intruder, assailed each bit of the prosecution's evidence, even getting a lead investigator to concede that police had not found anything to conclusively disprove the Olympian's story.
"[The angle] seems to me down. Fired down," Police officer Hilton Botha told the court, suggesting Pistorius was standing high up on his fake legs.
But when pushed by defense lawyer Barry Roux, Botha admitted he did not know whether Pistorius was wearing the prosthetics.
When asked about the witness who allegedly heard yelling between Pistorius and Steenkamp, Botha admitted under cross-examination that the woman was about 600 yards -- six football fields -- away at the time.
When the prosecutor questioned Botha a second time, he backtracked to say the witness was actually much closer.
The prosecution showed a floor-plan of the couple's apartment and said there was no way for Pistorius to cross from one side of the bedroom toward the bathroom, or retrieve his hidden pistol, without realizing Steenkamp was not in bed.
"There's no other way of getting there," prosecutor Nel said.
The defense further suggested that Steenkamp had gone to the bathroom on her own, and not to flee from Pistorius, because her bladder was empty. Had she simply run there to hide at 3 a.m., it would have more likely been full, Roux said.
Asked by defense attorney Roux whether Steenkamp's body showed "any pattern of defensive wounds," suggesting she had put up a fight, Botha admitted it did not.
Prosecutors also said that they found two boxes of testosterone and needles in the bedroom, although the defense disputed the finding, calling the substance a "herbal remedy," not banned drugs or steroids.
Botha told the court Wednesday that he arrived at Pistorius' home at 4:15 a.m., Feb. 14, to find Steenkamp already dead, dressed in a white shorts and a black vest, and covered in towels. The first thing Pistorius told police was that "he thought it was a burglar," officials said.
Thursday will likely be the third and final day of the bail hearing, but it could take at least another day, if not more, before the magistrate makes a decision on whether to release Pistorius while he awaits trial.
Botha argued Wednesday that Pistorius should be considered a flight risk because investigators discovered that he has offshore bank accounts and owns a house in Italy.
"I think it would be hard to get him back," Botha told the court. "This is a very serious crime, shooting an unarmed woman behind closed door."
After a decision on bail, the parties will postpone additional hearings for a week or two as police complete investigations and receive test results. Each side can then ask for additional time before a trial date is set by a high court. The trial might not take place until the end of this year.
Prosecutors also say they might file additional charges for unlicensed ammunition, after an unregistered .38 caliber pistol and ammunition were found in Pistorius' home.
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