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Blade Runner Oscar Pistorius Pleads Not Guilty in Trial Opening
Double-amputee Olympian, Oscar Pistorius pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. On the first day of the murder trial, a neighbor, Michell Burger, said she heard “blood-curdling” screams from a woman in the pre-dawn hours of February 14th last year. After the screams the witness said she heard four gunshots.
“It was very traumatic,” Burger said. “You could hear it was blood curdling screams. You can’t translate it into words. The anxiousness in her voice, and fear. It leaves you cold.” She also said, “She screamed terribly and she yelled for help” and testified that she also heard a man shout for help before the shots were fired.
Burger’s testimony contradicts Pistorius’ version of what happened that night. Pistorius says he killed his girlfriend Steenkamp by mistake thinking she was a dangerous intruder. The prosecutors are saying something totally different happened that early morning. They say Pistorius shot his girlfriend 4 times after a fight, through the toilet door.
Barry Roux, Pistorius’ lawyer asked Burger if she thought Pistorius was a liar. Not answering the question, she questioned the version that Pistorius is sticking by. “I can only tell the court what I heard that evening,” Burger said. “I cannot understand how I could clearly hear a woman scream but Mr. Pistorius could not hear it.”
Attempting to discredit Burgers recollection of events, Roux argued she only heard Pistorius screaming for help and trying to break down the locked bathroom door with a cricket bat. Burger said there was “no doubt” in her mind she heard two different people screaming, one a woman, and then four gunshots, with a gap between the first shot and then three more. She said she could not mistake gunshots for the sound of a cricket bat hitting a door.
According to defense lawyer Kenny Oldwadge, a statement was read from Pistorius that says the killing was an accident and the state has inconsistencies in their case. Pistorius said he brought two fans in from the balcony on the night after speaking to his girlfriend who was in bed beside him. He said Steemkamp must have gone into the bathroom while he was fetching the fans. Pistorius said he did not notice that she had gone and then heard the bathroom window open.
“I approached the bathroom, armed with my firearm, so as to defend Reeva and I,” Pistorius said in a statement. He said he then heard a noise in the toilet cubicle and was in a “fearful state” because he was unable to run away or defend himself physically since he was not wearing his prosthetic legs. He said he shouted at what he thought was an intruder and then shot through the toilet door, only later realizing that he shot Steenkamp.
Pistorius can face 25 years in prison before the chance of parole, the minimum time if given if he is guilty of murder in South Africa. South Africa has no death penalty. The judge in the hearing is Thokozile Masipa, and this will be her biggest trial of her career. She will ultimately decide the fate of the Olympic runner. South Africa has no trial by jury.
As Pistorius left the courthouse, you could hear some groups that support his position and others that do not. There is an intense interest in this trial with live streaming broadcast satellite trucks around the courthouse. The murder trial is being broadcast on live TV in South Africa and around the world and a 24-hour cable channel devoted to covering the trial was launched in South Africa on Sunday.
Image credit: Yahoo.comBlade Runner Oscar Pistorius Pleads Not Guilty in Trial Opening by Jaan