Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete won't be first defence witness

 

Oscar Pistorius is no longer expected to be the first witness to take the stand as his defence team prepares to launch their case on Monday.

The athlete's lawyer, Brian Webber, said pathologist Jan Botha is "likely" to be the first witness to be called when the murder trial resumes next week.

Mr Webber told The Associated Press Prof Botha has some "personal difficulties" and it is understood that prosecutors have granted him permission to give evidence first.

Pistorius was expected to kick off the defence's case and explain why he shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp three times through a locked toilet door on Valentine's Day last year.

The athlete has had a week to prepare and rehearse his testimony after Judge Thokozile Masipa postponed proceedings for more than a week due to the illness of one of her legal assistants.

Pistorius doesn't have to testify in his defence but legal experts have indicated his testimony could make or break the prosecution's case. Pistorius was the only witness the night Ms Steenkmap was shot.

"The only question is whether there was intent and intent is subjective," former state prosecutor and now defence lawyer Marius du Toit told AP. "That means the accused must come and dispel that."

 

The trial has already heard 15 days of prosecution-led testimony from neighbours, forensics, specialist ballistic and evidence taken from mobile phones.

So far, state prosecutors have painted a picture of a gun-loving, possessive and jealous boyfriend who often snapped at Ms Steenkamp and accused her of flirting with other men.

In a text message sent on 27 January, Ms Steenkamp wrote: "I'm scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me". The model said she felt "picked on" and "attacked" by the one person she deserved protection from - referring to the athlete.

Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to murdering Ms Steenkamp, claiming he shot the model by mistake thinking she was an intruder in his home. Prosecutors argue he intentionally shot and killed the 29-year old model following a domestic dispute.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa and Pistorius's fate will ultimately be decided by Judge Masipa, assisted by two assessors.

The case continues.

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