Oscar Pistorius back in court

2013-06-03 22:53
Oscar Pistorius (Picture: AP)

Oscar Pistorius (Picture: AP)

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Johannesburg – Murder-accused Oscar Pistorius will be back in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday for his pre-trial hearing.

The Paralympian, who has kept out of the public eye, faces a life sentence if found guilty of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot dead in his house on Valentine's Day.

The world will probably only be given a brief glimpse of Pistorius as he appears for the first time since being whisked away from court and into a near four-month period of reclusion after being freed on bail.

Prosecutors say the hearing will probably last only minutes and be postponed until another date in August as police investigators continue to gather the evidence that will be presented at his trial.

"The proceedings will be an unopposed postponement", the justice and constitutional development department said in a statement. 

Pistorius is facing a charge of premeditated murder.

During a bail hearing, Pistorius's defence read out a statement in which he said he thought Steenkamp was an intruder.

He was released on a R1m on 22 February, but under conditions which he later challenged in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

Several of the conditions were relaxed, including bans on international travel and alcohol consumption.

On Sunday night, Pistorius's uncle Arnold Pistorius said a leaked photograph, purportedly showing the scene where Steenkamp was shot dead, had "shaken" the family.

"We were shaken by the graphic images, leaked into the public domain this week, of the accident scene at Oscar's house," he said in a statement.

The picture was posted on the SkyNews website on Friday.

The photograph shows blood on a toilet seat, and a pool of blood on the floor.

Bullet holes in the bathroom door are marked with tape, and a panel near the door handle is taped-up.

Uphill battle

Pistorius’s defence team will have a difficult task on their hands, experts said.

Lawyers familiar to the case, but not representing Pistorius, said he was claiming "putative self-defence".

"The fact that he has admitted that he has killed her by pulling the trigger means the state has a prima facie case and it is expected of the accused to come and convince the court otherwise," Marius du Toit, a former prosecutor, magistrate and now defence attorney with over 20 years' experience in South Africa's justice system told CBC News.

He said that Pistorius’s account would be scrutinised in the finest detail.

Even with the principle of innocent until proven guilty, for any defendant in Pistorius's circumstances, "it's on you to come and show to the court that what [you] did was not so unreasonable", Du Toit said.

Martin Hood, a firearm lawyer, told CBC News: “I do not see how Oscar Pistorius could have concluded that a closed door constitutes danger to such an extent that his life is in danger.”

He has predicted an “uphill battle”, as putative self-defence is “extremely difficult” to prove.

"I do not see how Oscar Pistorius could have concluded that a closed door constitutes danger to such an extent that his life is in danger, bearing in mind that he had gone into that situation," Hood said.

"So, it begs the question why did he go looking for trouble?"

Why didn't he check where Steenkamp was, or just leave the room and the perceived danger? Simply, "what he should have done is… got out the bedroom," Hood said.

Family support

Pistorius's family continued to support him ahead of his appearance on Tuesday.

"We believe in him, love him and will support him every step of the way in what lies ahead," said Arnold Pistorius.

The family asked that the legal process be allowed its run its course with integrity.

"The leaking of evidential material into the public domain, before the court case, does not advance this process. We continue to have great faith in the South African legal justice system and believe that Oscar's account of what happened on that terrible night in February will be borne out by the evidence that the defence team will lead in court," he said.

When asked about the photograph, Pistorius's legal team said it would discuss the issue.

"We will take this up among ourselves. Beyond that I cannot comment at this time," his lawyer Kenny Oldwage said on Friday.

National police spokesperson Phuti Setati said on Friday the police could not comment on the photograph because it did not know how it came to be in SkyNews's possession.

"We don't want to be distracted by these deliberate tactics. All that we want to do is secure a conviction, so we are working throughout and investigating professionally," he said.

Read more on:    kenny oldwadge  |  reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius

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