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February 21, 2013

Pistorius Bail Hearing Takes Bizarre Turn

by Anita Powell

Court proceedings have adjourned until Friday in the case of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius, who faces murder charges in the death of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. The bail hearing took a twist Thursday when it was revealed the lead investigator is facing attempted murder charges in an unrelatred 2011 incident.   South African police later said they are assigning a new investigator to the case. 

Before Thursday's proceedings began, a local radio station reported the lead detective in the case, Hilton Botha, is facing seven charges of attempted murder.  The reinstated charges against Botha date back to 2011 when he and two other officers allegedly fired on a minibus.

Already Botha’s testimony had been called into question by defense attorney Barry Roux, who took Botha’s arguments in the Pistorius case and systematically picked them apart.  Botha later faced a scolding from the magistrate over his testimony and police work.

Roux told the court Thursday that the evidence against his client is at best, flimsy.

“Your worship, and I say this with great deference, but the poor quality of the evidence of the investigating officer Botha further exposed an endeavor on the part of the state to avoid disastrous shortcomings in the state’s case,” he said.

Roux argued that if Pistorius were denied bail, there would be shock and outrage.

“Of course there will always be, when there’s someone killed, there will be someone that’s outraged," he said.

"There will be a group of people that will be outraged," he added. "There will be a group of people that’s outraged because he’s charged… But the likelihood, we submit to you, does not exist in the context of this case and the facts before this court.  I think there will be a level of shock if he’s not released.”

But prosecutor Gerrie Nel fought back, questioning the affidavit in which Pistorius said he did not intend to kill Steenkamp, and the athlete's character.

“We say we’re astounded by the total lack of insight into the seriousness of what he has done.  If I read that statement, and I read what he says, and I read what he offers for bail,” Nes said.

Pistorius insists that he mistook Steenkamp for a burglar when he opened fire through a locked bathroom door in his house.  The prosecution said he intended to kill her and should be charged with premeditated murder.  

The magistrate is expected to rule on bail for Pistorius Friday. Until then, the star paralympian remains in police custody.