Pistorius trial: What happens next
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Oscar Pistorius is due to re-appear in a South African court on Monday to face charges of killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Here’s what is expected to happen next:
The 26-year-old double-amputee Olympian will be indicted on a main charge of premeditated murder on Monday at Pretoria Magistrate’s Court, prosecutors say, confirming they will maintain the charge they initially laid against Pistorius for Steenkamps’s shooting death in February when they go to trial.
Pistorius denies he committed murder and says he shot Steenkamp by mistake thinking she was a dangerous intruder.
The blockbuster trial is expected to start in early 2014 but the exact date will likely be set on Monday, according to prosecutors. It will probably be in February or March, around a year since Steenkamp’s killing.
The indictment papers served on Pistorius by the state mean the case will be sent to the High Court in the South African capital Pretoria, where a judge will preside over the trial and ultimately pronounce the world-famous athlete innocent or guilty. South Africa does not have trial by jury. The mandatory sentence for someone convicted of premeditated murder is life with a minimum of 25 years in prison, meaning if Pistorius is found guilty, he will be older than 50, at least, when he leaves prison. There is no death penalty in South Africa.
The indictment papers are expected to include a list of witnesses to be called by the prosecution during the trial, and detail some of the evidence police investigators have gathered in the six months since Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp in a bathroom in his home on Valentine’s Day.
Prosecutors told The Associated Press it is “possible” that additional charges could be added to the indictment but declined to comment on South African media reports that Pistorius would face two other charges relating to recklessly discharging a firearm in a public place in two separate incidents. The incidents — reportedly when Pistorius shot a gun out of the sunroof of a moving car and let one off accidentally in a restaurant — would seemingly show the prosecution’s attempt to paint Pistorius as trigger-happy at his trial.
Neither Pistorius’ defense lawyers nor his family would comment in detail on any of the charges, but a spokeswoman said they would see a copy of the indictment papers before Monday so they could prepare.
“The Pistorius family does not wish to comment on any aspects of this court case before the next court appearance,” Anneliese Burgess told the AP in an email. “In our view, the correct place for any information relating to charges or witnesses or any other aspects pertaining to this or any other legal case, is in a court of law.”
THE POLICE INVESTIGATION:
Last week, police announced they had completed their six-month investigation into Steenkamp’s killing at Pistorius’ upscale home in Pretoria in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14 and were “convinced the accused has a charge to answer to.” Effectively, police have finished gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses and the prosecution is ready to go to trial. The statement, from the office of South Africa’s national police commissioner, said detectives, forensic experts, ballistics experts, psychologists and technology experts all worked on the case and are confident that they have the evidence to convict Pistorius.
“The South African Police Service is hopeful that justice will prevail,” the statement said.
The most telling evidence may be in records on cellphones found at Pistorius’ home and through examination of the toilet cubicle door through which Pistorius shot four bullets, hitting Steenkamp three times and killing her. The angle or trajectory of the bullets could show if Pistorius was standing on his stumps when he shot, as he says, or if he was on his prosthetics, as the prosecution maintains — a marked difference in the two accounts.
PISTORIUS IN PUBLIC:
Pistorius was seen just twice in public between the time he was granted bail on Feb. 22 and his most recent appearance in court on June 4. Since he was last in court, his family has announced he would return to a “low-key” track routine and he was seen jogging on his regular practice facility, and sporting a short beard, in late June.
Last Monday, a South African newspaper published photographs of Pistorius on a beach during a holiday with friends. In the rare public appearance, Pistorius was wearing a white T-shirt and a life-vest as he paddled with another man in a kayak. In another photo, he is standing on the beach in shorts, his pale prosthetic legs exposed to the sunshine.