Oscar Pistorius Trial: Defense to Start Its Case
(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Lawyers for Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius will start building his defense Monday when his highly publicized murder trial resumes in the High Court in Pretoria. Pistorius, who shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year, has denied the state's charge that he acted in cold blood, saying he mistook her for an intruder.
The case was postponed after the state closed its case when one of the judge's assessors took ill. Court officials have told ABC News the assessor is expected to be recovered when the matter resumes.
Although it is customary under South African law for an accused person to testify first, should he or she opt to take the stand, Pistorius' lawyers have confirmed they will not call the man known as the Blade Runner first. Instead, they are expected to call forensic pathologist Jan Botha as the first witness.
Botha, a retired state pathologist who still lectures at the University of the Free State, is expected to give evidence rebutting that of his colleague Gert Saayman, who testified for the state, as well as that of police ballistics expert Capt. Chris Mangena.
Mangena told the court the first bullet hit Steenkamp in the hip, which caused her to fall against a magazine rack. He testified that two subsequent projectiles hit the law graduate and model in the arm and head while she was bracing herself for the onslaught.
Saayman outlined the wounds he examined in graphic detail, causing Pistorius to cover his ears while writhing and vomiting in the dock. The state's pathologist also testified about the type of bullets used in the shooting -- the so-called Black Talon ammunition which, according to Saayman, was designed to cause maximum damage on impact.
It remains unclear when Pistorius himself will take the stand. His legal team has indicated on several occasions he will be called to testify, but so far, they have refused to confirm exactly when they will call him.
It is understood the prosecution will not oppose the move to call the pathologist first, as it's believed his personal circumstances will make it impossible for him to testify later, but it is unlikely the state will be as amenable to other witnesses testifying before Pistorius has given his version of events.
The prosecution claims Pistorius killed Steenkamp before dawn on Valentine's Day 2013 by firing through a locked bathroom door after a loud argument. Neighbors have testified they heard what sounded like shots, a woman screaming, then more shots. Pistorus claims he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he fired through the door.
Pistorius, 27, could be sentenced to at least 25 years in prison if convicted.
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