Prosecutors to attack Pistorius’ story, character
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Neighbors, an ex-girlfriend, a member of a firearms club and a former soccer player who claims Oscar Pistorius threatened him are all named among the 107 potential state witnesses for the double-amputee Olympian’s murder trial.
Preparing to attack Pistorius’ story that he didn’t know it was girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his bathroom when he shot and killed her on Valentine’s Day, prosecutors may base their case on the assertion that a loud argument between the couple was heard by neighbors before the killing.
The list of witnesses submitted in the 11-page indictment against Pistorius also suggests that prosecutors will examine whether the world-famous athlete was prone to anger or violence and behaved recklessly with guns, questioning his character.
Here’s what those witnesses and the outline of the case against Pistorius may mean when he stands trial on charges of premeditated murder and illegal possession of ammunition in March 2014:
PISTORIUS’ OVERALL STORY DISPUTED
Pistorius says he shot through a toilet stall door in his bathroom because he thought a dangerous intruder was in the cubicle. In an affidavit during his bail hearing in February — his story — Pistorius said he was terrified and shot to protect himself and Steenkamp, whom he believed was still in the bedroom. Pistorius will have to defend that version at his trial, while from the indictment it appears prosecutors will contend that there was an argument and that Pistorius had no reason to believe there was an intruder in his upscale home in a gated community.
A WOMAN SCREAMING BEFORE GUNSHOTS?
Prosecutors will likely hinge much of their case on witnesses they say heard a woman scream before the sound of gunshots at Pistorius’ villa in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14. In its timeline, the prosecution said those witnesses “heard a woman scream, followed by moments of silence, then heard gunshots and more screaming.”
It contradicts Pistorius, who says that the only shouting was by him, telling the person in the bathroom to get out of his house, and then shouting at Steenkamp, whom he says he believed was in bed, to call the police. In the prosecution’s list, 18 witnesses are connected to the Silver Woods Country Estate where Pistorius lived and who may have heard or seen something suggesting a motive.
PROSTHETICS, NO PROSTHETICS?
Another marked difference in the two sides’ stories. Prosecutors said at the start of the case that Pistorius took time to put on his prosthetic legs, then “walked 25 meters to the bathroom and shot the deceased whilst she was in the toilet,” and therefore committed premeditated murder.
Pistorius maintains he did not have his prosthetics on when he fired and was on his stumps and feeling “extremely vulnerable.”
While the prosecution described a possible argument in Monday’s indictment, it did not mention the prosthetics. Evidence that proves whether or not Pistorius was wearing his prosthetics will help one side’s credibility and badly hurt the other’s.
TOILET DOOR AND CELLPHONES
The toilet door and cellphones found at Pistorius’ home could hold crucial evidence. Holes in the door may show the trajectory of the bullets and if Pistorius was shooting with his prosthetic legs on and therefore from a higher point than from his stumps. Police forensic and ballistics officers will likely be called as witnesses.
South African news reports have speculated that the couple may have fought because Steenkamp was sending messages to a former boyfriend. He was not on the witness list, but the cellphones may still yield crucial information about the hours before Steenkamp was killed.
INSPIRING OLYMPIAN / MAN WITH ANGER ISSUES
Prosecutors may try to show a dark side to Pistorius, painting him as angry and prone to violence. Mark Batchelor, the former soccer player, has said that a drunken Pistorius once threatened to break his legs in a disagreement, and his testimony might further erode Pistorius’ image.
Pistorius’ defense submitted statements from a few witnesses for his bail application, with one friend saying that the athlete is “a role model to millions and yet he is still a down-to-earth, humble, approachable and intelligent man.”
Which is the real Oscar Pistorius?
PISTORIUS AND GUNS: TRIGGER-HAPPY?
Pistorius’ former girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, also could be called by the prosecution amid reports that she was once driving a car when Pistorius fired a gun out of the sunroof. So, too, could people who were at a Johannesburg restaurant when Pistorius reportedly shot another gun accidentally. It was reported that those two incidents would be incorporated into Pistorius’ indictment, adding charges of recklessly discharging a firearm in public. They were not, but the incidents could still be brought up at trial.
A member of Pistorius’ gun collecting club is also a witness, suggesting prosecutors may further examine Pistorius’ attitude to firearms. Before the shooting, Pistorius applied for licenses for six more guns in addition to the 9mm Parabellum pistol which he was licensed to have for self-defense and which he used to kill his girlfriend.
A woman who works at the South African Weather Service is named as a possible witness along with police officers, forensic and ballistic experts, criminal psychologists and paramedics.