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Prosecutor Calls Pistorius 'Deceitful Witness'

  • VOA News

Final arguments have begun in the murder trial of former South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius, following months of gripping testimony that captured the world's attention.

Pistorius, once a national icon for reaching the pinnacle of sport despite having no lower legs, is accused of murdering his law graduate and model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, 29, at his home in Pretoria on Valentine's Day last year. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

Pistorius, 27, has denied the charge in the months-long trial in which he has at times sat weeping and vomiting in the dock as grisly details of Steenkamp's death were presented to the judge.

In his closing argument in the Pretoria courthouse, South African state prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked the judge on Thursday to reject Pistorius' defense as “devoid of any truth."

State's case

Nel set out the state's case that Pistorius deliberately shot and killed Steenkamp after an argument.

"It is the state's case the accused was a deceitful witness," said Nel, describing Pistorius's testimony was "absolutely devoid of any truth."

He said there are "glaring contradictions" in Pistorius' story.

Initially, Pistorius said he shot Steenkamp by mistake through a toilet door in his upmarket Pretoria home, believing her to be an intruder.

However under intense cross-examination, he said he accidentally shot his girlfriend as a result of deep-seated anxiety caused by his disability and did not mean to kill anyone.

Nel also said Pistorius had anxiety "on call," suggesting the runner manufactured a fear of crime to suit his version.

Legal analysts watching the case say the runner, once revered for his triumph over disability, did damage to his case by appearing to offer two different defenses.

Nearly 40 witnesses ranging from a jilted ex-girlfriend of Pistorius to a forensic geologist testified, creating a hefty record of more than 4,000 pages.

'Highly vulnerable individual'

Defense lawyers, who will present their closing arguments on Friday, have sought to portray Pistorius as a "highly vulnerable individual" obsessed with safety -- a result of a difficult childhood and his disability -- in a country with a sky-high crime rate.

In addition to the murder charge, Pistorius faces three separate gun-related charges, one of which stems from his alleged firing of a shot in a crowded restaurant called Tashas in Johannesburg, months before he killed Steenkamp.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Even if he is not found guilty of premeditated murder, Pistorius could still be convicted and jailed on alternative charges of murder or culpable homicide.

Because South Africa has no trial by jury, Judge Thokozile Masipa will decide with the help of two legal assistants if Pistorius committed murder, is guilty of a negligent killing, or if he made a tragic error and should be acquitted. The decision could take several weeks.

Masipa is only the second black woman to be appointed a high court judge in South Africa and has a reputation for handing down stiff sentences in crimes against women.

Pistorius, a gold medalist Paralympian, rose to international fame when he competed alongside able-bodied runners at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.

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