Oscar Pistorius Neighbor Who Heard Screams Breaks Down at Trial
(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- The second day of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial featured tense exchanges between defense attorney Barry Roux and the state’s first witness, university lecturer Michelle Burger -- who testified that she heard blood-curdling screams coming from Pistorius’ house on Valentine’s Day last year. At one point the witness was brought to tears by the harsh cross-examination.
Roux repeatedly tried to poke holes in Burger’s story, insinuating that her statement and her husband’s statement are virtual carbon copies. He also tried to get her to acknowledge that the gunshots she heard were in fact Pistorius breaking down the wooden bathroom door with a cricket bat, and, more importantly, that the woman’s voice she thought she heard was rather Pistorius's voice.
Roux had to apologize to Burger for his sarcastic tone after the prosecutor objected. At one point during the cross-examination, Judge Thokozile Masipa instructed the witness to answer “yes,” “no” or “I don’t know” after Roux asked the same question eight times, clearly not happy with the answers Burger gave.
When Roux released the witness, prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked her a few questions to clarify some of her answers during cross-examination. Whether it was his gentler tone, or the stress from being cross-examined by Roux, it's hard to say -- but it was at this point that Burger, who had been standing firm, started crying.
Tuesday’s hearing was delayed by about 20 minutes after a local TV channel aired a still photo of Burger, which is in violation of court rules. Masipa warned journalists following the incident, saying the media will not be treated with kid gloves if they don’t behave.
The next witness called to the stand was Estelle Van Der Merwe, another neighbor who lives much closer to Pistorius. Van Der Merwe has said she heard a woman’s voice in what sounded like an argument -- and that she heard four “thuds” and then complete silence the night Reeva Steenkamp died.
Pistorius claims he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder and shot her through a bathroom door. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
Pistorius, 27, could face at least 25 years in prison if convicted.
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