Oscar Pistorius trial: Defence case postponed until the 7th April after assessor is taken ill

Olympian had been expected to take the witness stand today

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The Independent Online

The Oscar Pistorius trial has been postponed today after one of the assessors assisting the judge was taken ill.

The double-amputee Olympian accused of murder had been expected to be called to the witness stand to give evidence.

Judge Thokozile Masipa postponed proceedings for more than a week due to the illness of one of the legal assistants who has been sitting at her side throughout the trial in Pretoria.

The defence for the athlete will now open on 7 April. The trial has already heard 15 days of prosecution-led testimony from neighbours, forensics, specialist ballistic and evidence taken from mobile phones.

Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year. Prosecutors argue he intentionally shot and killed the 29-year old model following a domestic dispute.

He claims he fatally shot Steenkamp by mistake thinking she was an intruder in his home.

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

His testimony will be crucial to his defence against the murder charge because it allows the judge to determine his credibility.

There is no trial by jury in South Africa, allowing Pistorius to try and convince Judge Masipa and her two assessors that he did not intend to kill his girlfriend, and is not guilty of murder.

However, Pistorius testifying opens him up to cross-examination by prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who will likely ask the world-famous athlete questions about why he shot four times from close range through a locked toilet door, hitting Steenkamp in the hip, right arm and head, and killing her.

Prosecutors say Pistorius argued with Steenkamp before he shot her with his 9 mm pistol.

When asked earlier if Pistorius would take the stand, defence lawyer Brian Webber said: “I don't think we have a choice, it's a question of when.”

If Pistorius is found guilty, he could face life imprisonment.