News / Africa

Drama, Tears as Pistorius Testifies in Murder Trial

Drama, Tears as Oscar Pistorius Testifies at Murder Triali
X
Anita Powell
April 11, 2014 3:48 PM
South African Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius concluded a grueling week on the witness stand on Friday at his murder trial. He is the star witness for the defense, and his testimony has been packed with emotion, tears, raised voices and pitched arguments with a prosecutor who is determined to prove that he intended to kill his girlfriend when he shot four times through a locked bathroom door. VOA's Anita Powell was in the courtroom in Pretoria, and brings us this report.
Anita Powell
— It has been an intense week at the Oscar Pistorius trial here in Pretoria.

The South African athlete took the witness box on Monday as the defense launched its case - in a trial that has drawn global interest.
 
Pistorius delivered the anticipated drama within seconds of taking the stand.

"I would love to take this opportunity to apologize to [long pause] to Mr. and Mrs. Steenkamp, to Reeva's family, to those of you who knew her and are here today," he began. "I'd like to apologize and say there's not a moment and there hasn't been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven't thought about your family. … I can't imagine the pain and the sorrow and the emptiness that I've caused you and your family. I was simply trying to protect Reeva. I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved."

Pistorius is charged with murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, at his Pretoria home last year. He says he mistook her for an intruder and that he didn't stop to think before firing four bullets through a locked bathroom door, killing her.
 
Prosecution casts doubt


But the prosecution argued that he meant to kill her, and set up a blistering argument that attacked the athlete's story of that night, and his claim that he constantly felt fearful in crime-ridden South Africa.

Head prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who has earned the nickname "the bulldog" for his tenacious take-downs of witnesses, showed why when he began his cross-examination Wednesday.
 
In a move that provoked intense criticism from trial viewers, Nel put up a photo of Steenkamp's gruesome head injury on courtroom screens.

That's it, have a look there. I know you don't want to because you don't want to take responsibility, but it's time you take a look at it," he told Pistorius. "Take responsibility for what you've done, Mr. Pistorius.

"My lady, I've taken responsibility," the athlete addressed the judge, "by me waiting, and not wanting to live my life, but me waiting for my time on this stand to tell my story for the respect of Reeva, and for myself I've taken responsibility. But I will not look at a picture where I am tormented by what I saw and felt  that night. As I picked Reeva up, my fingers touched her head, I remember! I don't have to look at a picture. I was there."

Nel then accused the athlete of mixing up his lies. He also systematically, and often sarcastically, challenged Pistorius' character, painting him as an egocentric young man who is unwilling to take responsibility for his actions.
 
Nel, a theatrical prosecutor, often leaned on his rostrum, hand on one hip and the other hand twirling his glasses impatiently. On Friday, Nel, full of energy, continued to question a weary-looking Pistorius, who broke down many times while describing the events of the night of the murder - February 14, 2013.

Audience riveted

The trial has riveted South Africa, and it's the first major criminal trial to be broadcast live.  Social media in South Africa has erupted with opinions on the trial, and the courtroom's public gallery is regularly packed.  A South African broadcaster has even created a pop-up TV channel dedicated to the trial.
 
This week, Judge Thokozile Masipa made a rare comment to the public, prompted by laughter in the court during the cross-examination.

"I also want to say something to people out there; you possibly think this is entertainment. It is not," she scolded. "So please restrain yourselves."

The trial continues next week when defense lawyer Barry Roux calls on between 14 and 17 witnesses.

Judge Masipa will ultimately decide Pistorius' fate - which could be life in prison. But in this very courtroom, she is not his only judge.

Reeva Steenkamp's mother June Steenkamp has sat in court all week, staring stonily at the athlete throughout his emotional account of events.

On Thursday, she told a British paper that he has left her "unmoved" .

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid