Tracking Oscar Pistorius' Murder Trial into the Shooting of Reeva Steenkamp

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2014

Oscar Pistorius, foreground, sits in the dock during his trial at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, Friday, March 7, 2014. Pistorius is charged with murder for the shooting death of his girlfriend,  Steenkamp, on Valentines Day in 2013.  (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, Pool)
Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

Updates from Monday, March 10

The second week of the trial into Oscar Pistorius' shooting of Reeva Steenkamp commenced on Monday, and the focus was very much on the testimony of pathologist, Professor Gert Saayman.

Pistorius stands accused of premeditated murder, but claims he mistook girlfriend Steenkamp for an intruder. 

Saayman's testimony was not allowed to be broadcast live, out of respect for the deceased, but Sky News' Alex Crawford and Eyewitness News' Barry Bateman provided a recap:

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - AUGUST 19:  South African athlete Oscar Pistorius (L) speaks with his lawyer Kenny Oldwage in Pretoria Magistrates Court prior to an indictment hearing on August 19, 2013 in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistorius, 26 is accused of murd
Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Uncredited/Associated Press

Crawford also reported on a highly interesting detail regarding the timings of the night in question:

Earlier on Monday, defence lawyer Barry Roux sought to disprove the recollections of both Dr. Johan Stipp, a key witness from last week, and security guard Pieter Baba. He used phone records to weaken their testimonies, as reported by Crawford:

Next, Roux used the same records to disprove Baba's claims that he phoned Pistorius prior to the Paralympian making contact with him. Baba had claimed that he called Pistorius first, only to be told by the accused that "everything was fine."

Bateman and Crawford charted the exchange:

Court adjourned until Tuesday.

Updates from Friday, March 7

Johan Stipp, the neighbour who gave a key testimony during the Oscar Pistorius murder trial on Thursday, returned to the stand 24 hours later on a day when Prosecutor Gerrie Nel felt he had got the better of defence lawyer Barry Roux.

Stipp had recalled gunshots, followed by female screams on Thursday. He also noticed the bathroom light was on and later heard more bangs before heading over to the house to find Reeva Steenkamp's body on the floor.

Roux attempted to establish the timeline of these events on Friday, per Sky News' Alex Crawford and the BBC's Andrew Harding. He challenged Stipp's timings regarding calls made to security, but the witness held firm:

Roux also entertained the prosecution's case, which is that Steenkamp was locked in a toilet before being killed by Pistorius.

Roux claimed a female's scream would not have been heard from the locked toilet, and that the witness was not sure of how many gunshots he heard, per Eyewitness News' Barry Bateman:

At that point Roux sat down, allowing a confident Gerrie Nel—State prosecutor—to recall Pistorius' version of events. Pistorius claims he shot through the toilet door before walking back to the bedroom to realise Steenkamp wasn't there, at which point he broke down the door with a cricket bat.

Nel highlighted holes in several areas, including the fact Pistorius didn't admit to screaming during his bail application—despite the realisation of Steenkamp's shooting. He also questioned how dark the house was and how quickly Pistorius can wield a cricket bat, given that witness Stipp claims the second round of bangs sounded like rapid-fire gunshots:

An adjournment brought Pistorius' ex-girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, to the stand. Harding logged some notable comments from Taylor, regarding both the sounds of Pistorius' screams and a previous incident when he allegedly shot a gun:

Defence lawyer Roux attempted to discredit Taylor as a witness by disproving her claims that she stayed at Pistorius' house the night of the sunroof incident:

Taylor said Pistorius never kept a firearm under his bed while they were together. Roux then quizzed her over whether she had ever cheated on Pistorius:

Prosecutor Nel took over from Roux, asking Taylor to remind the court of two other incidents in which Pistorius had wielded a gun, once again establishing the State's case that Pistorius is gun-happy:

After lunch, Pieter Baba, the security guard who worked the main gate on the night in question, took to the stand to give his recollection of events. He was informed of gunshots, after which he called Pistorius' phone:

Court adjourned until Monday.

Updates from Thursday, March 6

A key witness, Johan Stipp, delivered a dramatic testimony on Day 4 in the trial of Oscar Pistorius, who is charged with the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Stipp, a neighbour who lives to the back of Pistorius' place, said he heard screams and gunfire before going across to Pistorius' house to witness Steenkamp's body. Sky News' Alex Crawford charted Stipp's testimony:

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel took time to have Stipp confirm he heard both gunshots and female screams, as reported by Crawford and the BBC's Andrew Harding:

The response from defence lawyer Barry Roux was predictable. He tried to highlight that a lengthy amount of time passed between gunshots and the screams heard by Stipp, thus suggesting they were the screams of Pistorius. Hamish Macdonald of ABC News summed up Roux's efforts:

Roux then referred to specialists to "prove" Steenkamp could not have screamed after the shots:

This prompted a response from the State, with Nel stating his case that the noises heard at 3:17 a.m. were the gunshots that killed Steenkamp. Crucial moment:

Earlier in the day, witness Charl Peter Johnson returned for a second day's questioning. Defence lawyer Barry Roux once again tried to discredit him by claiming Johnson and his wife colluded to create their own version of what happened:

Roux put forth his defence that Pistorius had mistakenly shot Steenkamp before breaking down the toilet door in an attempt to help her. He claimed witness Johnson merely heard a cricket bat bashing down a toilet door, followed by Pistorius' cries for help, meaning there was no argument leading to gunfire.

Johnson flatly disagreed:

Court will resume on Friday.

Updates from Wednesday, March 5

Day 3 of the trial into Oscar Pistorius' shooting of Reeva Steenkamp centred upon two main subjects. Firstly, witness accounts of the night in question continued, before focus switched to an earlier—totally separate—incident when Pistorius accidentally fired a gun in a restaurant.

The day began with the return to the stand of witness Charl Peter Johnson, husband of previous witness Michelle Burger. Johnson had delivered a matching version to his wife's account of events on Tuesday, speaking of an argument in the Pistorius household that led to gunshots being fired.

Defence lawyer Barry Roux questioned how Burger and Johnson's statements were so similar, and he grilled his witness on Wednesday in an attempt to discredit both accounts, per Sky News' Alex Crawford and the BBC's Andrew Harding:

Sensing weakness, Roux then tore into Johnson, eventually getting him to admit that he and his wife might have been woken up by gunshots, not screams.

In such a scenario, any screams they heard after would have been Pistorius', not Steenkamp's, discrediting the suggestion she cried for help:

Roux then used timings provided by Johnson to suggest the only thing he could have heard, rather than gunshots, was the bangs of Pistorius knocking down the toilet door with his cricket bat, moments before he called for help.

On this basis, all suggestions of an argument between two voices leading to gunfire would be discredited:

After an adjournment, the prosecution stood down witness Johnson while some documents were copied. Instead, friend of Pistorius—Kevin Lerena—took to the stand.

Harding highlighted that this was to discuss a separate incident, when Pistorius allegedly fired a gun in a restaurant:

Lerena then described the moment Pistorius accidentally shot him and asked his friend to take the blame:

After a two-hour break, the defence returned to cross-examine Lerena. Key points raised included the noise of the restaurant and Pistorius' lack of knowledge that the gun was loaded, per Eyewitness News' Barry Bateman:

Owners of the restaurant, Jason and Maria Loupis, were last to give their version of events on Wednesday, adding little new information before court adjourned.

Updates from Tuesday, March 4

The second day of the trial into Oscar Pistorius' shooting of Reeva Steenkamp saw the defence—led by Barry Roux—resume its line of questioning toward witness Michell Burger.

Burger had described on Day 1 the screams she heard on the night in question, but Roux attempted to discredit her claims. He read out the witness statements of both her and her husband, highlighting the remarkable similarities. The BBC's Andrew Harding recorded Roux's efforts:

Roux's line throughout was clear. Burger could not have heard clearly from such a distance away, and likely heard the screams of Pistorius shouting in anguish, not Steenkamp. The bangs were not gunshots, but instead Pistorius' bat trying to break down the door upon realisation of what he had done:

Roux closed by arguing that Steenkamp could not have been heard screaming because she was shot in the head. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel quickly countered:

Next into the witness box was Estelle Van Der Merwe, who lives opposite Pistorius. Like Burger, she too provided an account of an argument on the night of Steenkamp's shooting:

Charl Peter Johnson, husband of witness Michelle Burger, was next to take the stand. He delivered a similar account to that of his wife:

Court adjourned at the end of Day 2.

Updates from Monday, March 3

South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, 27, entered a plea of "not guilty" on the first day of his trial into the alleged murder of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, 29, who died Feb. 14, 2013.

It was a day that saw the defence state its case on behalf of the Paralympian and also saw the first witness take the stand.

Tom Peck of The Independent provided the details:

The defence, led by Kenny Oldwage, then began delivering its case. Sky News' Alex Crawford charted the key details offered by Oldwage, who made a statement on behalf of the accused:

South African journalist Nomsa Maseko provided a photo from inside the court:

Witness Michelle Burger, Pistorius' neighbour, was called to the stand first. She recalled the night she heard screams coming from his estate, followed by a series of gun shots:

The defence, led by Barry Roux, began cross-examining Burger, suggesting the bangs she heard were merely Pistorius' attempts to knock down the door with a cricket bat.

Martin Brunt of Sky News records:

Roux, aggressive in approach, relentlessly attempted to suggest Burger did not know what she heard on the night in question. Part of the defence's case is that the screams heard by Burger actually belonged to a scared Pistorius. The exchange was reported below:

The defence highlighted the fact that alternative witnesses, who are to be examined later in this process, claimed to have heard screams from a man. Roux attempted to place a question mark over Burger's version of events by asking how she didn't hear Pistorius' screams if she was able to hear those of Steenkamp:

Court adjourned at the end of Day 1.

Original Text

Oscar Pistorius' trial for the alleged murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, has begun in South Africa.

The Paralympic athlete, known to many as the "Blade Runner," is appearing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa in a bid to determine whether he intended to shoot the 29-year-old dead in his own home on Valentine's Day, 2013.

As reported by Sky Sports, the six-time Paralympic medal winner maintains he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder. The prosecution will lead with the argument he deliberately shot the model multiple times after a heated argument, per Ben Quinn and David Smith of The Guardian:

State prosecutors are expected to paint an unflattering portrait of Pistorius as reckless, hot-headed and obsessed with guns, and have lined up 107 witnesses for the trial, including Pistorius's ex-girlfriends Melissa Rom and Samantha Taylor, whose mother welcomed the end of their relationship.

The trial will be broadcast live on television across the world, but in South Africa, a 24-hour channel has been established just for continued coverage. Viewers should expect to listen in on many pieces of evidence against Pistorius, including a tweet where he discussed entering "full attack recon mode in the pantry" after previously believing an intruder entered his property, per The Guardian's report.

Former girlfriends and associates are also expected to speak, while mobile phone records will be used to determine the severity of the alleged argument. Steenkamp's friends Desiree, Gina and Kim Myers will appear among 107 witnesses, while Pistorius' sister Aimee and Uncle Arnold will also speak, per Sky Sports.

Steenkamp's mother has attended the trial and has no plans of shying away from Pistorius a little over one year after the event took place, as reported by The Associated Press, via CBC:

I want to look at Oscar, really look him in the eyes, and see for myself the truth about what he did to Reeva. Whatever the court decides at the end of his trial, I will be ready to forgive him ... But first I want to force him to look at me, Reeva's mother, and see the pain and anguish he has inflicted on me. I feel I need that.

Pistorius acknowledged Steenkamp on the first anniversary of her death, releasing a statement via his official website:

"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," he said.

Pistorius will face a minimum of 25 years in prison if found guilty, while criminal law experts believe he could face the lesser charge of "culpable homicide," per The Guardian's report, if the prosecution fails to prove premeditated murder.


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