Oscar Pistorius Trial Update: 'Blade Runner' Pleads Not Guilty To Premeditated Murder Of Girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
If found guilty of the premeditated murder of Reeva Steenkamp, Pistorius faces a minimum of 25 years in jail
Double-amputee Olympian Oscar Pistorius, nicknamed the Blade Runner, pled not guilty on Monday, the first day of his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013.
Oscar Pistorius Trial Update
In addition to being charged with the premeditated murder of Steenkamp, a model and budding reality TV star, Pistorius is also facing two unrelated gun charges for incidents in 2012. On the first day of the trial in South Africa, Pistorius issued his plea and testimony was heard from a witness for the prosecution.
Neighbor Testifies She Heard Screams, Gunshots
Michelle Burger, a woman who lives roughly 200 yards from Pistorius’ home in Pretoria, South Africa, took to the witness stand on Monday to give her account of events on Feb. 14, 2013. Burger claims that she heard screams from a woman, followed by gunshots. She also alleges she heard a second, male voice, screaming for help.
"It was very traumatic," Burger said, according to Fox News. "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."
"I can only tell the court what I heard that evening," Burger said, when pressed to reveal whether or not she thought Pistorius’ written account of the events of that night were false. "I cannot understand how I could clearly hear a woman scream but Mr. Pistorius could not hear it."
"Something terrible was happening at that house," Burger had elaborated on the stand, reported CNN. “Her shouts, her screams were petrifying."
"Just after 3, I woke up from a woman's terrible screams," Burger added. "Then I also heard a man screaming for help. Three times he yelled for help."
Pistorius' Version Of Events
Prior to the start of the trial, Pistorius submitted a written affidavit that detailed his account of the night that he shot and killed Steenkamp. As he’s claimed before, Pistorius maintained that he mistook the individual behind the locked bathroom door for an intruder – believing that he was taking action to protect both himself and Steenkamp.
“I heard a noise in the bathroom and realized that someone was in the bathroom. I felt a sense of terror rushing over me,” read Pistorius affidavit. “There are no burglar bars across the bathroom window and I knew that contractors who worked at my house had left the ladders outside. Although I did not have my prosthetic legs on I have mobility on my stumps. I believed that someone had entered my house. I was too scared to switch a light on.”
“As I did not have my prosthetic legs on and felt extremely vulnerable, I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself,” Pistorius added in the statement. “I believed that when the intruders came out of the toilet we would be in grave danger. I felt trapped as my bedroom door was locked and I have limited mobility on my stumps. I fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to Reeva to phone the police.”
Upon cross-examining Burger, Pistorius’ attorney Barry Roux had the task of casting doubt on what the neighbor, Burger, claims to have heard. Roux questioned whether or not Burger might have confused the sound of a cricket bat smashing into a door with that of gunfire. He also questioned the timing of the gunshots Burger claims to have heard, and who she heard screaming. Roux even floated the possibility that the high-pitched screams could have belonged to Pistorius, not Steenkamp.
Pistorius Remembers Steenkamp On Anniversary of Her Death
Just weeks before the trial kicked off, Pistorius broke his long silence about Steenkamp’s death and his involvement in it. From his verified Twitter account, he linked to a brief blog post on his website.
A few words from my heart on http://t.co/WNF7RXMNLP
— Oscar Pistorius (@OscarPistorius) February 13, 2014
“No words can adequately capture my feelings about the devastating accident that has caused such heartache for everyone who truly loved – and continues to love Reeva,” Pistorius wrote in the post published on Feb. 13, 2014. “The pain and sadness – especially for Reeva’s parents, family and friends consumes me with sorrow. The loss of Reeva and the complete trauma of that day, I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
What Lies Ahead For Pistorius
South Africa does not have the death penalty, nor does it have trial by jury. If Judge Thokozile Masipa convicts Pistorius of Steenkamp’s murder, he will likely receive a life sentence. In South Africa, one must serve 25 years of a life sentence before qualifying for parole. If found guilty of “culpable homicide” – rather than premeditated murder – Pistorius could face 15 years is prison. The sentencing is entirely in Masipa’s hands as well.
– Chelsea Regan
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