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National & World News
07/08/14

Oscar Pistorius Defense Rests

By Richard Allen Greene

London (CNN) — The defense in the Oscar Pistorius murder case rested Tuesday, bringing to an end the latest phase of a trial which has lasted longer than the athlete’s relationship with Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend he killed.

Closing arguments will begin August 7, the judge ordered.

The long delay may be because of the length of time it will take the legal teams on both sides to review the transcript of the case, CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps said.

It’s thought to be as much as 4,000 pages long, covering a case that ran for 39 days between March 3 and July 8.

Pistorius, 27, admits firing the bullets that killed Steenkamp, but he says he mistakenly thought he was defending himself from an intruder. Prosecutors say the two had an argument and he deliberately murdered the model and law school graduate, who was 29.

Following closing arguments, the judge will have to decide whether Pistorius genuinely made a mistake or deliberately murdered his girlfriend.

If Judge Thokozile Masipa does not believe the athlete thought there was an intruder, she will find him guilty of murder and sentence him to a prison term ranging from 15 years to life. South Africa does not have the death penalty.

If Masipa accepts that Pistorius did not know that Steenkamp was the person he was shooting at, she could find him guilty of culpable homicide, a lesser charge than murder, or acquit him, according to Phelps, the CNN legal analyst.

A verdict of culpable homicide would leave the sentence at Masipa’s discretion.

 

 

 

Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial will be postponed until June 30th.  That’s so the Olympian can undergo a month-long mental evaluation.  The judge first ordered the evaluation last week after a psychiatrist testified that Pistorius has an anxiety disorder.  The judge ordered that Pistorius must report for the evaluation starting Monday.  Pistorius is charged with murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

pistorius

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.

oscar-pistorius

By CNN Staff
updated 8:49 AM EDT, Mon June 3, 2013

Johannesburg (CNN) — The family of Olympian Oscar Pistorius said Monday they are “shaken” by the “graphic images” leaked to the media last week that purportedly show the blood-spattered bathroom where the double amputee track star fatally shot his girlfriend in February.

“It has always been our plea that the legal process be allowed its run its course with integrity,” the Pistorius family said in a statement. “The leaking of evidential material into the public domain, before the court case, does not advance this process.”

The statement comes a day before Pistorius is due to appear in court where prosecutors are expected to ask magistrates to postpone the case pending further investigations. Pistorius, 26, is charged with killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of February 14.

The graphic photos of the crime scene were published by Sky News on Friday and show a trail of blood leading from a bathroom; blood on the walls, stairs and a couch inside the house, and a Valentine’s Day card with “Ozzy” — Steenkamp’s nickname for Pistorius — written on it.

For the full story, as well as the image, click here.

National & World News
02/26/13

Living Life Normally

Oscar Pistorius is living life normally despite the murder charges against him.  The paralympian held a private funeral service Tuesday for Reeva Steenkamp, his model girlfriend who he shot to death on Valentine’s Day.  He also says he wants to continue his athletic training while he’s out on bail.  Pistorius claims he shot his girlfriend because he thought she was an intruder.

(CNN) — Bail has been set at 1 million rand (around $114,000) for double amputee track star Oscar Pistorius, and he is not allowed to return to his home, a South African magistrate ruled at a bail hearing Friday.

National & World News
02/22/13

Oscar Pistorius granted bail

Oscar Pistorius Court Sketch

Oscar Pistorius Court Sketch

By Robyn Curnow and Chelsea J. Carter; PRETORIA, South Africa (CNN) — A magistrate granted bail Friday to Oscar Pistorius, citing a number of problems with the police investigation into the death of the Olympic sprinter’s girlfriend.

“I come to the conclusion that the accused has made a case to be released on bail,” said Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair, eliciting a celebratory cry of “Yes!” from the courtroom.

Nair said the former chief investigator in the case, Hilton Botha, had made “several errors and concessions” during his testimony.

Specifics of Pistorius’ release have not yet been announced.

The decision comes at the end of a four-day bail hearing that has been remarkable for not only its length but its allegations of miscues by a lead police investigator who himself faces attempted murder charges.

Pistorius is accused of premeditated murder in the February 14 shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp, 29. Authorities and Pistorius’ team agree that he killed Steenkamp, but Pistorius says he mistook her for an intruder.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the judge in final arguments before a packed Pretoria courtroom that Pistorius doesn’t deserve bail.

“He must realize that long-term imprisonment is almost guaranteed. He might think he’ll be acquitted.”

The prosecution had several notable missteps during the bail hearing, including the removal of the lead investigator, who had earlier acknowledged under questioning from defense attorney Barry Roux that police could have contaminated the crime scene and had failed to properly catalog evidence.

The South African Police Service pulled Botha, from the case Thursday after prosecutors reinstated seven counts of attempted murder charges against him. Botha is accused of opening fire on a minibus full of people while allegedly drunk in 2011.

Prosecutors allege that Pistorius, 26, killed his girlfriend after a heated argument in the early morning hours of Valentine’s Day.

The sprinter, however, says he thought an intruder was hiding in a toilet room inside the bathroom of his Pretoria home. He says he fired into the room in a fit of terror before realizing Steenkamp was inside.

Prosecution plea

Nair questioned Nel over the prosecution’s assertion that Pistorius was a flight risk.

What kind of life would he lead if he were to flee? the judge asked.

A life of freedom, the prosecutor said.

Ducking and diving every day with those prosthesis? Nair asked.

A life not in prison, Nel said.

The prosecutor implored the judge to deny Pistorius’ bail request, saying courts cannot favor the famous or the disabled.

“We all know that a lot of important people were granted bail and they stayed in the country,” Nel told the magistrate. “But lots of very important people have escaped.”

Nel pointed to the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sex assault allegations.

Assange’s face was well-known, the prosecutor said, but “it didn’t stop him fleeing arrest.”

Roux said the track star needs regular medical treatment for his stumps and his prostheses require routine maintenance.

“Mr. Pistorius cannot go unnoticed through an airport due to his legs,” he told the judge.

Pistorius, eyes red, appeared emotional and drained.

At one point, he sat with his eyes closed and shoulders shaking as tears rolled down his face. At other times, he stared straight ahead.

In arguments wrapping up during Thursday’s session, the prosecutor said Pistorius’ defense team has failed to explain why investigators found two cell phones and the gun believed to have been used in the shooting in front of the shower.

That goes to the prosecution claim that Steenkamp didn’t merely get up to relieve herself in the middle of the night, but in fact had locked herself in the bathroom with her cell phone to protect herself from Pistorius.

Earlier in the hearing, Nel argued that evidence showed Pistorius intentionally targeted Steenkamp. Ballistic evidence showed he had to aim at the toilet to hit her, Nel said, and how the bullets traveled through the door suggested he was standing on his prosthetic legs, not his stumps as he claimed.

Pistorius said in his statement that when he shot through the door, he was feeling vulnerable to an intruder because he was not wearing his legs and had limited mobility.

Defense argument

During the bail hearing, being held in a dark, stuffy Pretoria courtroom, Roux hammered away at the credibility of Botha and the entire police investigation. He argued Thursday that the state’s case had suffered a “monumental collapse.”

He said police had missed a bullet where Steenkamp was shot and may have contaminated the crime scene by failing to wear protective foot covers.

Botha said investigators didn’t wear the booties because they’d run out.

Under questioning from Roux, Botha said police didn’t have evidence to specifically contradict Pistorius’ story.

Then, Botha was gone.

Officials in the case learned Thursday of the charges against Botha, and the South African Police Service moved quickly to take him off the investigation.

While police Commissioner Riah Phiyega praised Botha’s work on the case, she removed him in favor of the department’s most senior detective.

Accusations against the investigator would be little more than a “speed bump” in the Pistorius case, Bulelwa Makeke, the spokeswoman for South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority, said before Botha was removed.

“Blade Runner”

Pistorius made history last year as the first disabled athlete to compete in the able-bodied London Games. A few weeks after the Olympics, he smashed a record to win the men’s 400-meter in the 2012 Paralympic Games.

When Pistorius was 11 months old, his legs were amputated below the knees because he was missing the fibulae.

He runs on special carbon fiber blades, earning the nickname “Blade Runner.”

The case has roiled South Africa, where Pistorius is considered a national hero.

Following his arrest on Valentine’s Day, Pistorius put his career on hold and pulled out of future races. Sponsors Nike and Oakley suspended their contracts with the runner.

Robyn Curnow reported from Pretoria. Chelsea J. Carter and Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Nic Robertson, Ben Brumfield, Kim Norgaard and Diane McCarthy also contributed to this report.

By Chelsea J. Carter, Faith Karimi, and Robyn Curnow; PRETORIA, South Africa (CNN) — Model Reeva Steenkamp was shot four times through the bathroom door at the home of Olympian Oscar Pistorius, a South African official familiar with the case told CNN on Monday.

She was alive after she was shot and was carried downstairs by Pistorius, said the official, who was not authorized to release details to the media.

The details are the latest to emerge in the shooting death that has roiled the nation, and left South Africans asking what went so terribly wrong inside the upscale Pretoria home of the man nicknamed “Blade Runner” for his lightning-fast prosthetic legs.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there were indications the 29-year-old model intended to stay the night at the house: She had an overnight bag and her iPad.

Authorities have released little about a possible motive in the Valentine’s Day shooting, while local media have reported that Pistorius had mistaken his girlfriend for an intruder. South African authorities have stressed that the scenario did not come from them, and said there was no evidence of forced entry at the home.

Police have charged Pistorius with murder, and he will appear in court Tuesday for a bail hearing. South African prosecutors have said they intend to upgrade the charge to premeditated murder, but have not released further details.

Pistorius, 26, has rejected the murder allegation “in the strongest terms,” his agent said in a statement.

Burial service

The same day Pistorius returns to court, Steenkamp will be buried in a private service in her hometown of Port Elizabeth.

Her burial on Tuesday will come two days after South Africa’s national broadcaster aired a pre-recorded reality TV show featuring Steenkamp discussing her exit from “Tropika Island of Treasure,” on which local celebrities compete for prize money.

The decision to air the program took “much deliberation,” and that “this week’s episode will be dedicated to Reeva’s memory,” Samantha Moon, the executive producer, said.

The shooting has stunned South Africa, where Pistorius is a national hero as the first disabled athlete to compete in the able-bodied Olympic Games. He competed in the London Games as well as winning two gold medals in the Paralympic Games.

Headlines about the case have dominated in the days since Pistorius was arrested, though tight-lipped authorities have revealed little about what, if anything, the track star has said.

Questions swirl

Model Reeva Steenkamp is fatally shot at the home of Oscar Pistorius

Model Reeva Steenkamp was murdered

Reports say Pistorius and Steenkamp became an item around November and were popular in South African social circles.

The night before the shooting, Steenkamp appeared to be looking forward to Valentine’s Day.

“What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow?” she asked her Twitter followers the day before. “Get excited.”

Steenkamp was found in a pool of blood at Pistorius’ home Thursday morning. Neighbors alerted authorities to the early morning shooting, saying they had “heard things earlier,” police spokeswoman Denise Beukes has said. She did not clarify what the neighbors reported they heard.

Authorities also have not said whether Pistorius called for help.

Pictures of his walk to a police car, his head covered by a sweatshirt, have flashed repeatedly across television screens.

On Sunday, Pistorius canceled his appearance in five upcoming races.

The move is meant to help Pistorius focus on the legal proceedings and “help and support all those involved as they try to come to terms with this very difficult and distressing situation,” said Peet Van Zyl of Pistorius’ management company, In Site Athlete Management.

CNN’s Robyn Curnow reported from South Africa; Chelsea J. Carter and Faith Karimi reported from Atlanta.

By Ashley Fantz, (CNN) — An international sports icon is behind bars. His girlfriend is dead. And South Africa is grappling with one of its most notorious killings in recent memory.

Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius, known as Blade Runner for his lightning-fast prosthetic legs, shook and sobbed Friday when a judge officially charged him with killing his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day.

Wearing a dark suit, he buried his head in his hands at a packed courtroom in Pretoria. Prosecutors said they plan to charge the 26-year-old with premeditated murder.

Pistorius rejects the murder allegation “in the strongest terms,” his agent, Peet Vanzuyl, told CNN.

Model Reeva Steenkamp is fatally shot at the home of Oscar Pistorius

Model Reeva Steenkamp was murdered

His girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, was found in a pool of blood at Pistorius’ home Thursday in an upscale neighborhood in the capital.

Neighbors alerted authorities to the early morning shooting, saying they had “heard things earlier,” according to police spokeswoman Denise Beukes. She did not clarify what the neighbors reported they heard.

The track star was arrested the same day.

Steenkamp’s killing rattled South Africa, not only for the fame factor, but also because the country is grappling with a disturbing problem — 71% of women report that they’ve been the victim of sexual abuse. Just in the past few weeks, 17-year-old Anene Booyson died after being gang-raped and mutilated in the tiny tourist town of Bredasdorp, two hours southeast of Cape Town.

Booyson’s death inspired this week’s nationwide rape awareness day dubbed Black Friday. The day before she was killed, Steenkamp retweeted a message on Twitter in support of Black Friday.

While police have not discussed a possible motive for the model’s killing, local media reported that Pistorius had mistaken his girlfriend for an intruder.

South Africa has a high crime rate, and many homeowners keep weapons to protect themselves from intruders.

But Beukes, the police spokeswoman, stressed that this scenario did not come from authorities.

There was no evidence of forced entry at the home, she said.

Police said there had been previous “allegations of a domestic nature” at his house, but they did not elaborate.

Investigators found a pistol at the scene.

South Africa’s gun debate

On a larger stage, Steenkamp’s killing has given gun control advocates a spotlight to push for stricter laws.

Gunpolicy.org says there are just under 6 million licensed firearms in South Africa, a country of 50 million people.

“There are 1.5 million gun owners — about 3.5 million guns in civilians hands,” said Alan Storey, chairman of Gun Free South Africa.

Most of the victims of gun homicides are between the ages 20 and 30, he said.

South Africa has passed tough legislation that includes a requirement for a thorough background check for prospective gun owners. The check includes spouses and partners, and is repeated every few years, he said.

“People acquire guns believing they are more safe … but they place themselves at great risk,” Storey said. “We’ve made airplanes a gun-free zone. We need to bring that logic down to earth.”

But the South African Gunowners’ Association, a popular gun lobby group, has said citizens have the right to protect themselves from increasingly violent crimes.

“There are already more than enough laws and regulations to control the possession of firearms by private citizens,” it says on its website. “Fewer and less complex laws reasonably, yet properly, applied could achieve the required objective.”

One issue in South Africa is stolen guns. Guns are often stolen from home, reports show, but also from the police.

Statistics suggest that 18,196 police firearms have been lost or stolen during the five-year period beginning April 1 2005 to March 31 2011.

From hero to murder suspect

Beyond the violence, South Africans struggled with the idea that they’ve lost a hero, an athlete who embodied what it meant to overcome incredible physical odds.

When Pistorius was a toddler, his legs were amputated below the knees because of a bone defect.

Earning the nickname “Blade Runner,” Pistorius runs on special carbon fiber blades.

He became the first Paralympic sprinter competing against able-bodied athletes at the London Olympics last year.

His face became a fixture on billboards across the nation, and he and Steenkamp were photographed at high-profile celebrity events and around town.

Hours after the news of his arrest, some of the billboards started coming down.

His sponsors also pulled away.

Nike removed an ad featuring him from its website showing him taking off for a run with the words “I am the bullet in the chamber.”

Other Pistorius sponsors — including prosthetics manufacturer Ossur, British Telecom, and Oakley, which makes sunglasses and other products — expressed condolences and said they had no further comment.

The sports icon appeared in headlines across the nation, overshadowing the State of the Union address by President Jacob Zuma.

“Golden Boy Loses Shine,” read a headline on the front page of the Sowetan.

The Pretoria court postponed Pistorius’ bail hearing to Tuesday and ordered him to remain in custody until then. Prosecutors said they will argue that he committed premeditated murder.

Authorities said they will oppose bail, but did not provide their reasons for the decision.

He shattered barriers

The double amputee’s London Olympics appearance brought controversy, as some said the prosthetic limbs gave him an advantage.

Pistorius was initially refused permission to enter the Olympics, but he hired a legal team to prove that his artificial limbs did not give him an unfair advantage, and he was allowed to compete.

While he did not win a medal, his presence on the track was lauded as an example of victory over adversity and dedication to a goal.

In the 2012 Paralympic, held a few weeks after the Olympics, he smashed a record to win the men’s 400-meter in the final athletics event of the Games.

In October, he discussed the “massive blessing” of inspiring people around the world.

“Being an international sportsman, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that,” he told CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight.”

CNN’s Robyn Curnow reported from Pretoria and Faith Karimi reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Josh Levs, Marilia Brocchetto and Emily Smith contributed to this report.

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