By, Cindy Boren (The Washington Post)
Oscar Pistorius is on the witness stand this morning, to answer questions for the first time about what happened Feb. 14, 2013, when he shot his girlfriend to death.
Through his murder trial, which began March 3 and resumes after a weeklong recess because of the illness of a judicial assistant, Pistorius has been animated, reacting viscerally to graphic testimony from prosecution witnesses about the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius, the double-amputee Blade Runner who is a South African hero, contends that he mistook her for an intruder; the prosecution argued that he shot her intentionally.Brian Webber, the attorney for Pistorius, indicated that he intends to have Pistorius testify but has asked permission for Pistorius’s testimony to come after that of pathologist Jan Both. Brian Webber, one of Pistorius’s lawyers, told Agence France-Presse: “We don’t have a choice. The pathologist has personal reasons for why he has to take the stand first.”
In South Africa, a defendant who chooses to testify is expected to be the first witness unless the prosecution and court approve later testimony, ABC News reported. The prosecution here did not object and Judge Thokozile Masipa is likely to approve the move.
It has not been disputed that the sprinter shot Steenkamp, but only she and Pistorius know what happened that night and Pistorius has not spoken about in detail about why he fired a gun through a locked bathroom door, striking Steenkamp.
The case is being heard by a judge, since South Africa abolished trial by jury in 1969, and Pistorius may have a tough time escaping some form of punishment. Premeditated murder, the most serious charge he faces, carries a minimum 25-year prison sentence. There is the possibility that a lesser charge of culpable homicide could be applied if the judge finds that Pistorius believed he needed to act in self-defense. The sentence for that charge is at the judge’s discretion. The trial is expected to last at least another month.
To watch the trial live, click here.