Oscar Pistorius’ brother on trial for road death
VANDERBIJLPARK, South Africa (AP) — The brother of Oscar Pistorius pleaded not guilty to a charge of culpable homicide or negligent killing in a South African court Wednesday for the death of a female motorcyclist in a road collision in 2008.
Carl Pistorius also pleaded not guilty to two alternative charges of driving in a reckless and inconsiderate manner. The older brother of double-amputee Olympian Oscar Pistorius wore a dark suit and was accompanied by the pair’s younger sister, Aimee, and other relatives and friends for the first day of his trial at a court in the city of Vanderbijlpark, south of Johannesburg.
Oscar Pistorius, who was charged with murdering his girlfriend on Feb. 14, was not present and hasn’t been seen in public since he was granted bail at Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Feb. 22. His lawyers plan to challenge his bail restrictions on Thursday. Carl’s trial was adjourned until next week to allow lawyer Kenneth Oldwadge, also part of Oscar’s defense team, to help prepare Oscar’s bail appeal at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
Carl and Aimee arrived separately at the drab two-story Vanderbijlpark Magistrate’s Court building early Wednesday. They left together at the end of the day’s proceedings and declined to comment on Oscar’s case as a policeman led them out.
On the first day of his trial, Carl was chewing gum and spoke just once during the proceedings to plead not guilty to the main charge and the two alternative charges.
Asked by Magistrate Buks du Plessis if he understood the main charge of culpable homicide against him, the 28-year-old Carl Pistorius replied: “I do, your worship, and I plead not guilty.”
Prosecutors say Carl Pistorius was driving an SUV in March 2008 when he collided with a female motorcyclist in Vanderbijlpark. The woman, initially named as Marietjie Barnard by prosecutors but referred to as Maria Barnard in court on Wednesday, died in a hospital six days after the accident, according to the prosecution’s charge sheet. Although the case against Carl was initially removed from the court docket, it was reinstated because forensic evidence and reports from the accident scene became available, the prosecution said.
The Pistorius family said last month that Carl deeply regretted the incident but insisted it was a “tragic accident.” He was not under the influence of alcohol, the family said.
In court, defense lawyer Oldwadge said “the heart” of Carl Pistorius’ defense would be their assertion that the 36-year-old Barnard, a member of a local motorcycling club, was intoxicated at the time of the accident and had been consuming alcohol during the day. Oldwadge argued that she was the one driving recklessly when he cross-examined the state’s first witness.
Initial proceedings in Carl Pistorius’ trial had focused on a request by South Africa’s national broadcaster, SABC, to show the trial proceedings live on national television or record them for later use.
Magistrate Du Plessis said reporters could attend the trial but turned down the SABC request, saying he wanted to guard against the “emotional hype” and that any public interest in the trial stemmed only from the intense interest in the murder case against Oscar Pistorius. News photographers were not allowed to cover the trial while it was in session.
In opposing the application to have the court proceedings broadcast, Oldwadge said the legal team for Oscar Pistorius had been “overwhelmed by the media” during his bail hearing and that similar press scrutiny would make it difficult to work in court during the older brother’s case. Oldwadge cited a comment by the chief magistrate in Oscar Pistorius’ bail hearing that the media treated the athlete and multiple Paralympic champion like some kind of unusual “species” instead of a human being.
Oscar’s legal team filed an appeal against some of his bail conditions on March 7, objecting to him being not allowed to travel outside of South Africa even though a magistrate said he was not a flight risk when granting him 1 million rand ($108,000) bail. They’re also challenging an alcohol ban and a ruling that Pistorius cannot speak with residents at the gated estate where he shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead in the early hours of Valentine’s Day, among other conditions.
The athlete denies murdering Steenkamp and says he shot her by mistake, fearing an intruder was in his home. Prosecutors say he killed her intentionally following an argument.
Oscar Pistorius must appear in court again on June 4. Brother Carl must return to the Vanderbijlpark court next Wednesday.
Follow Gerald Imray at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP