Pistorius trial to last weeks longer than planned
The murder trial of Paralympian Oscar Pistorius for shooting dead his model girlfriend will extend weeks longer than expected, with a long list of prosecution and defence witnesses yet to take the stand.
The trial was supposed to have wrapped up by now, but a court statement on Sunday said the highly-publicised hearings could extend as late as May 16.
The Pistorius affair has gripped South Africans ever since Valentine’s Day last year when the 27-year-old claims he shot 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp through a locked toilet door in his Pretoria home after mistaking her for an intruder.
As the celebrity case heads into a fourth week and beyond on Monday, all eyes will be on the expected testimony of the sprinter himself, though the exact date for that is unknown.
Judiciary spokeswoman Lulama Luti told AFP the court needed more time “to allow the prosecution and the defence to present their respective cases, however long it will take.”
“That’s an indicative date,” she said. “It is very possible that it will take less time – it will depend on whether they are done or not.”
After 13 days of hearings, broadcast live on national television, the court has heard only 18 witnesses and the trial is now set to rival South Africa’s general elections on May 7 for the country’s attention.
The trial resumes Monday after a two-day adjournment allowed last week to give the prosecution more time to consult the “four or five” witnesses it still expects to call to the stand.
But the list could grow, with prosecutors having a list of 107 potential witnesses to choose from in their effort to brand the tragedy as a premeditated murder by an enraged Pistorius and not a tragic mistake.
House sold for fees
Since the trial opened, witnesses have testified to hearing a woman’s terrified screams in the dead of night, followed by gunshots.
A police ballistics expert said Thursday the first shot from Pistorius’s 9-millimetre pistol shattered Steenkamp’s hip bone. She then fell over and was struck in the head by another bullet.
Prosecutors have charged the double-amputee sprinter with intentionally killing Steenkamp after an argument, and are expected to wrap up their case in the coming days.
Following the prosecutors, the Pistorius defence team will then make its case.
Delays at the trial have also come from the defence effort, with testimony by witnesses for the prosecution picked apart in marathon hearings in an effort to raise doubts on the accusations against Pistorius.
The defence has so far succeeded in pointing out several police blunders at the crime scene, including an officer handling the suspected murder weapon without gloves and another stealing a luxury watch from the house.
A verdict is not expected until several weeks after the end of testimony and closing arguments.
The delays to the trial have not come without a cost to Pistorius.
The athlete’s legal costs — reportedly as high as $9,000 (6,700 euros) a day — are said to include at least three full-time lawyers in court, ballistics and forensics experts as well as an American crime scene reconstruction company.
Since the shooting, Pistorius has been living at his uncle’s house in Pretoria and on Thursday it was revealed that the star plans to sell the upmarket $460,000 house where the incident took place to cover the fees.
Estate agent Ansie Louw, the wife of his coach who is handling the sale, told AFP the house should not go for less than five million rand ($460,000, 330,000 euros).