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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs