Defense Tries to Shake Witness in Pistorius Trial

(PRETORIA, South Africa) — The chief defense lawyer in Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial sought on Wednesday to undermine the prosecution testimony of a couple who say they heard screams and gunfire the night the athlete fatally shot his girlfriend, saying similarities in their accounts indicated that they had aligned their versions at the expense of the truth. Charl Johnson, a neighbor of the double-amputee runner, had resumed his testimony on the third day of the trial after telling the court in Pretoria, the South African capital, that he heard the cries of a terrified woman and shooting around the time that Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp in what the athlete said was an accident in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year. Johnson’s wife, Michelle Burger, had given similar testimony and at one point broke down in tears because of what she said was the memory of the terrified screams of a woman. Defense lawyer Barry Roux said there were differences between the statements that Johnson and Burger had given to police after the shooting, and testimony that they gave in court. Both the statements and the testimony shared similarities, Roux said, implying that the couple had contaminated their evidence by talking through what they were going to say. “You could just as well have stood together in the witness box,” Roux said. “What do you say to that?” The tart assertion drew a caution from Judge Thokozile Masipa, who told Roux he had gone too far. Roux contended that crucial elements in the testimony of the couple were missing in their earlier comments to police, including the statements that they heard a woman’s screams rising in anxiety and intensity and that they heard the woman’s voice “fading” after the last in a volley of gunshots. Johnson suggested that he and his wife were more expressive while testifying in court than when providing information for a police document. “I would venture a guess that it’s the way you verbally tell the story,” he said. “There’s a lot more emotion involved……….

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Pistorius Prosecutors to Add 2 Firearm Charges

(CAPE TOWN, South Africa) — Prosecutors accusing Oscar Pistorius of premeditated murder will add two more charges believed to relate to firing guns in public to the indictment against him, apparently to show another side to the inspiring double-amputee Olympian: Reckless and trigger-happy. Pistorius now faces charges of murder, illegal possession of ammunition and two other counts of breaking South Africa‘s firearms laws in his trial in March. Pistorius’ lawyers received a letter on Tuesday advising them that the two charges, already raised against Pistorius, would be added to the indictment served on the athlete in August, National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Nathi Mncube told The Associated Press. Pistorius’ lawyers failed in an initial application opposing the inclusion of the two charges in his murder trial but can “take the matter up” again, Mncube said. Mncube said the additional charges were not in the original indictment because they are alleged to have occurred in the Johannesburg region, a different court jurisdiction to Pistorius’ fatal shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his villa in a gated estate in the South African capital, Pretoria, in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14. Prosecutors had to seek permission from South Africa’s new National Director of Public Prosecutions to “centralize” all the charges, Mncube said, so they all could be heard in the same trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. “The National Director has indeed given them (prosecutors) that authority and they will be added,” Mncube said. “They are not new charges, they were charges that already existed. They were just in a different jurisdiction.” Pistorius’ murder trial is due to start Mar. 3 and the 26-year-old disabled runner faces a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years in prison if he is convicted on the main charge of premeditated murder in the killing of Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day. Mncube declined to detail the charges being added, only saying there were two counts and they covered “the contravention of the firearms control act.” The South African media has reported that Pistorius has………….

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Oscar Pistorius Returns to Court Amid Arguments Over Leaked Pictures

For the first time in nearly four months, Oscar Pistorius, the South African paralympian accused of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, has appeared in court. During the 15-minute hearing, according to reports, Pistorius cut a much more composed figure than he did at his week-long bail hearing in February, during which he frequently broke down in tears. Police arrested Pistorius on Valentine’s Day and charged him with murdering Steenkamp. Pistorius acknowledged at the bail hearing that he shot 29-year-old Steenkamp, a model, through the bathroom door at his home in a secure compound in Pretoria, but he denies murder and says that he mistook his girlfriend, with whom he says he had spent a quiet night at his home, for an intruder hiding in the bathroom. He said at the bail hearing that he shot her with a gun he kept for security. The defense argues that the murder charge should be reduced to culpable homicide. At today’s hearing Judge Daniel Thulare postponed the case until 19 August (which by coincidence would have been Steenkamp’s 30th birthday). The prosecution had asked for more time to prepare for the case. Pistorius’ brief appearance in court (he spoke just once, to confirm that he understood the magistrate’s instructions not to violate his bail conditions before his next court appearance in August) has for the first time in months cast the spotlight on Pistorius, who became the first double-leg amputee to compete in the Olympics. A 400m runner, he raced against able-bodied athletes at the London Olympics last year. The athlete has made only a few confirmed trips out of his uncle’s house in Pretoria since February. (MORE: The Pistorius Case: Do Police Claims Fit the Story?) His coach, Ampie Louw told the Daily Telegraph that, while he is continuing to train at home, “mentally, he’s still battling.” His manager, Peet Van Zyl, told Der Spiegel: “Oscar sleeps poorly. He eats poorly. When you talk to him, of course he listens but I don’t reach him, he’s not there. He cries a lot.” ………………

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