Pistorius in court: Live Report
- Published: 22/02/2013 at 02:43 PM
- Online news:
1442 GMT: AFP's Johannes Myburgh, at the court in Pretoria, says media cameras are swarming around Pistorius' tired-looking family. Pistorius himself was taken out before the magistrate left for a break.
South African Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius is pictured at the Magistrate's Court in Pretoria on February 22, 2013.
Some family members are seen praying, as they have often been during the week. An investigator for the Steenkamp family tells AFP: "At the end of the day people tend to forget that there's someone six foot under."
1435 GMT: The court has adjourned for five minutes and will discuss the terms of bail when session resumes.
1427 GMT: Handing down the ruling, Nair says: "I come to the conclusion that the accused has made a case to be released on bail."
Jubilant family members scream "Yes!" from the gallery.
Court is adjourned.
1424 GMT: PISTORIUS GRANTED BAIL.
1422 GMT: Magistrate says he could refuse bail on the grounds that "shock or outrage" over the case could lead to public disorder, if this were the case. But he says he cannot make this judgment "on his own or in isolation".
1415 GMT: Next question...did Pistorius have a propensity to commit violence? Nair says this case has not been made:
"I do not think that Warrant Officer Botha spent as much time as he ought to have if he wanted to show the accused has a propensity to commit violence. That ground has not been established."
1410 GMT: Adressing the question of whether Pistorius is a flight risk, Nair goes through the things keeping him in South Africa: his family, his assets.
He concludes: "I cannot find that it has been established that the accused is a flight risk."
1407 GMT: "The defence has failed to show this court that there is a weakness in the state's case to amount to exceptional circumstances," says Nair.
"Likewise the state, not through its own doing, cannot equally show that the state's case is so strong and watertight that the applicant must come to a conclusion that he must flee or evade his trial."
1406 GMT: Nair says he has difficulty with several aspects ot the defence case, including why the defendant did not check to see where his girlfriend was before he went to the bathroom.
"There are improbabilities that need to be explored," he says, adding that this could only have happened if the accused testified. He says that by not doing so the defence has failed to diminish the state case.
1400 GMT: Other mistakes Nair points to in Botha's evidence include his failure to trace mobile phones, and possible contamination of the crime scene.
But he goes on to say he does not believe that these concessions undermine the state case.
"I want to highlight it cannot be said that Warrant Officer Hilton Botha is the state's case. It's his evidence that may have been tarnished by cross-examintion, not the state case.
"We are dealing with circumstantial evidence. What do you expect? the accused is the only witness."
1355 GMT: Magistrate returns now to Botha's evidence, saying that he made several errors and concessions during cross-examination.
"I really feel that it was just through the persistence of the questioning of advocate Roux that on the defence scenario the trajectory could have been the same," he says, refering to the direction the shots were fired in.
1350 GMT: Nair says bail would only be granted if the defendant is not considered a flight risk, or a danger to others, or deemed likely to intimidate a witness.
1345 GMT: "What [the prosecution] has in his possession at this point is no more than circumstantial evidence," Nair tells the court. But he adds that this does not rule out a schedule six charge, which is premeditated murder.
"At this stage I have to look at facts the state has, and all it has now is circumstantial evidence," he says.
"But that does not prevent it being schedule six and I will approach it in that vein."
1341 GMT: Magistrate says he is not there to find the accused guilty of premeditated murder -- that will be up to a judge to decide after his trial. His job, he says, is to look at the facts that the state prosecutor has presented in relation to bail.
1332 GMT: Bail serves not only the liberty interest of the accused, says Nair, but it also reduces the number of prisoners in an already overcrowded system.
1327 GMT: The magistrate has finished running through the evidence now and moves on to talk about the history of bail law in South Africa.
He says the court must weigh up the pros and cons of bail "judicially" and consider the risks.
1322 GMT: Nair sums up the evidence of the orginial investigating officer Hilton Botha who was replaced Thursday as he himself faces seven charges of attempted murder over a shooting in 2011.
He said rounds of .38 ammunition were found for which Pistorius had no licence. He was 1.5m away from the victim when the shots were fired, according to ballistics experts cited by Botha.
1316 GMT: Magistrate moves on now to the state's evidence. This version goes that Steenkamp was a "defenceless woman" who was shot three times through a closed door when she was unarmed.
A post mortem revealed wounds on the right side of her head, elbow and on her hip, and bullet holes through her pants, he says.
1312 GMT: Nair outlines evidence form Pistorius' friends supporting his good character and saying that the couple were deeply in love.
1307 GMT: "The deceased died in his arms," the court hears.
The magistrate says Pistorius refutes the murder charge, claiming that the facts will show that he didn't mean to kill her.
1303 GMT: Pistorius says he got a cricket bat and smashed in the bathroom door... he found Steenkamp slumped over but alive. And he called for help. He did not flee the scene.
1257 GMT: He recounts Pistorius' version of events: that he did not intend to kill Reeva Steenkamp, mistaking her for a burglar.
Pistorius got out of bed and grabbed his pistol believing he heard an intruder, according to his version of events. When he got to the bathroom he fired shots at the closed door and shouted at Steenkamp in the pitch dark to call for help.
Only when he returned to the bedroom did he realise she was not in bed, according to his account.
1253 GMT: Now he moves on to the ruling itself, first summing up Pistorius' case.
1251 GMT: Nair says he has tried to take into account the need for freedom of expression but argues television footage can "distort" public perception of procedings.
He says he does not want photographers to be "flashing at will" at the accused, whose lawyer, Roux had called for the ban.
1244 GMT: Magistrate Desmond Nair is speaking about a media permission order that was made earlier and explaining why he has decided to allow only audio, not television coverage of his ruling.
1238 GMT: Court has filled up again and is back in session. Magistrate is to give his judgment in a few minutes.
1155 GMT: Today was the first day anyone linked to Reeva Steenkamp has been seen in court. Desi Meyer, who is there with her her grown daugther, tells AFP: "We just want to be here for Reeva. Just to say somebody is standing by her.
"Reeva lived with us. She was our third daughter."
1142 GMT: Earlier we heard defence lawyer Barry Roux admit that there was a basis for culpable homicide charges. Stephen Tuson, criminal law lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand, explains what this means in South African law:
"Culpable homicide is the negligent or reckless killing ... it depends on the moral blameworthy of the person. So a suspect who behaves very badly, recklessly, and doesn't care about the safety of others and kills someone in an unsafe and very dangerous way -- he could get 15 years, that is the maximum magistrate jurisdiction.
"But if it was a tragic, innocent mistake, and his carelessness caused the death of someone, and it is understable that it was a tragic mistake he could get a warning, no fine."
1137 GMT: If Pistorius doesn’t secure bail today he will be transferred from Brooklyn police station to a local jail where other trial-awaiting inmates are kept, says criminologist William Booth. From here he could launch an appeal to the High Court.
1129 GMT: Our correspondent Johannes Myburgh says the general feeling is that bail will be granted, with Pistorius' PR company already offering interviews with the family as though it's a done deal.
"The key question is if the state has proven it could have been a premeditated murder," says Myburgh. "The feeling is they haven't. This means the charge is less serious, and the rules less strict to get bail. That leaves the way rather open for bail.
"A major concern is if he is a flight risk. The magistrate's questions to lawyers suggest he thinks Pistorius isn't because he is famous and has a well-known disability which will be too recognisable wherever he went."
1122 GMT: Oscar Pistorius' brother, Carl has attended all the bail hearings and is now among those waiting anxiously for a decision. He has previously tweeted updates on proceedings on Twitter but today posts simply @carlpistorius: "Waiting for judgment on the bail hearing."
1103 GMT: A blog post on Pistorius' website by Pierre de Vos, chairman of the Claude Leon Foundation in Constitutional Governance at the University of Cape Town, sheds some light on the rules surrounding bail in South Africa.
"A court is not supposed to withhold bail merely in order to punish the accused or to demonstrate disapproval of alleged crime committed by the bail applicant," he writes.
He says doing so "would amount to a form of detention without trial," and adds: "I fear that many South Africans considering the merits of granting bail to murder accused Oscar Pistorius will lose sight of this important fact."
"The focus at the bail stage is to decide whether the interest of justice permits the release of the accused pending trial," he explains.
1053 GMT: As the court takes a break family members cram into the little court cafe, AFP's Johannes Myburgh tells us from Pretoria.
Members of Steenkamp's family were also in session today, along with Pistorius' relatives who have attended every hearing so far.
"Journalists and family are trying hard to look friendly with each other, says Myburgh. "Reporters look overworked, but everyone is discussing Oscar Pistorius."
1048 GMT: Here's a quick recap on this morning's session in which both sides summed up their respective cases for and against bail.
+ Prosecuting lawyer Gerrie Nel launched a scathing attack on the Pistorius' version of events and criticised him for failing to testify, opting instead for an affidavit.
+ He said granting bail posed a flight risk, arguing that the Olympic sprinter "must think that conviction is likely". A jail term was "almost guaranteed", he said.
+ Magistrate Desmond Nair questioned this risk in light of the double amputee's disability. But the prosecution insisted that disability must not be a factor.
+ Pistorius' defence lawyer Barry Roux admitted there may be a basis for culpable homicide, but stressed that "he had had no intent to kill Reeva". Roux briefly put forward a case for "putatitve self-defence".
+ He sought to undermine the state's line of attack and argued there was no risk of flight, not least because Pistorius with his prothesis "cannot go undetected through security".
A decision is expected this afternoon.
1020 GMT: Both sides have now completed their arguments. Magistrate says he will return at around 2.30pm (12:30GMT) with a ruling on Pistorius' bail application.
1017 GMT: The defence contests Nel's assertion that Pistorius poses a flight risk and alludes to circumstances that should be taken into account when considering bail.
"He cannot go undetected through security," Roux points out with regard to Pistorius' prosthesis.
Additionally, he claims the prosthetic legs require regular maintenance and his stumps demand medical attention.
"Those legs need maintenance and adjustment on a monthly basis. And it's not only that. He needs medical treatment for his stumps," the court hears.
1012 GMT: Seeking to undermine the prosecutor's version of events, Roux says: "The firing line is inconsistent with his case of a planned murder."
The defence has shifted from legal arguments to refuting, line by line, the state's line of attack.
1009 GMT: Defence lawyer Roux questions the legal principals underlying the prosecution's murder charge. He admits there may be a basis for culpable homicide, but that is not what is currently before the court.
"In this case, what the state maybe ignores, from time to time, is that [Pistorius] had no intent to kill Reeva."
1003 GMT: Magistrate Nair casts doubt on the "putative self-defence" argument, replying: "The intruder doesn't pose him a threat at that point. The accused is not visible."
0959 GMT: Court back in session. Pistorius' lawyer Barry Roux is up now and sheds some light on what the defendant will eventually plea.
"We can never ever say that he acted in self-defence," says Roux. "Putatitve self-defence ... is what we referred to.
"How would a reasonable man have acted in the same circumstances?"
"Because he acted oustide what a reasonable would have, he's exposed to be convicted of culpable homicide."
0953 GMT: That's the end of the prosecution's summing up. Court takes a short break before the defence replies.
0950 GMT: Prosecution argues that Pistorius must not be treated differently for being a double amputee.
"He cannot be different," says Nel. "Then we have to say the main fact he wears prostheses is something we have to take into consideration when considering bail."
0946 GMT: Magistrate Nair questions the prosecution's flight risk case, in light of Pistorius' disability, asking: "What kind of life would he lead, a person who has to use prostheses, if he is to flee?"
Nel replies: "A life of freedom. A life not in jail. What kind of life will I have anywhere that's not in prison? Better."
Nair seem unconvinced: "Ducking and diving everywhere, with those prostheses?" His response is met with laughter in the courtroom.
0940 GMT: Nel goes on: "Lots of people have escaped bail. Lots of famous people.
"I think he's a flight risk. That's my argument."
0937 GMT: The argument returns to whether Pistorius is a flight risk. Prosecutor Nel tells the court: "He has put categorically he doesn't own a house in Italy. However, he has a home."
On Thursday the prosecution quoted a magazine article in which Pistorius says "I have a house" in Italy as evidence that he owns property abroad and might try to flee there.
But his coach, Ampie Louw, told AFP the property is actually a training facility built by the local government and a hotel. According to him, the athlete goes there regularly to train and unwind.
0930 GMT: "Throughout the attack, Pistorius sits with his head bowed, without emotion," AFP's Johannes Myburgh reports. "Some members of his family shook their heads and murmured their disapproval of the state's version.
"Pistorius, wearing a black suit and light blue shirt, is looking thin, worn down. He hasn't looked back at all.
"His family fill three benches of public galllery. Sister Aimee, brother Carl and father sit right behind him, as they've done all week."
0925 GMT: The prosecution drives home the fact that four shots were fired into the bathroom. And he points to allegations of a previous shooting incident in a restaurant.
"We argue that this applicant has gotten off for discharging a firearm in public," he says. "We argue that this applicant threatened people."
0920 GMT: Pushing the case against granting bail, Nel says the court has a duty "not only to pay lip service to violence against women, but to really apply the law.
"This court must know on this court roll how many cases it has of women or children who either are abused or killed."
0916 GMT: Pistorius is not testifying himself, so he can't be cross-examined. The prosecution is therefore taking every opportunity to pick holes in his affidavit.
"He says he slept on the left hand side that night -- to explain the holster)... The objective evidence is there was an overnight bag on the left hand side. There were slippers on the left hand side. You must remember the holster was found on the bedside table."
0910 GMT: Prosecutor says Pistorius knows a long spell in jail is "almost guaranteed", pressing his case that he poses a flight risk.
"He hasn't said so, but he must think that conviction is likely," says Nel. "He must realise that a long term of imprisonment is almost guaranteed."
0905 GMT: Nel goes on: "On our version she barricaded herself in the bathroorm for a reason. It's either to escape a fight or to escape a gun."
0900 GMT: Now onto the question of whether the shooting was premeditated, on which much of the case hinges. Magistrate Desmond Nair asks the prosecution: "Can you say the planning of the scene is postmeditated, not premeditated?
Nel replies: "I'll say it can be both.
"I'm not saying the murder of Reeva Steenkamp was planned days ahead, weeks ahead.
"We are arguing the planning to kill happened on that night."
0855 GMT: Pistorius was emotional after the shooting, the prosecution admits. But this doesn't back up the defence claims, he argues.
"We agree that the applicant cried at the scene. He was emotional.
"We say crying, remorse was expected.
"We understand somebody has remorse. They either feel sorry for what they did or they feel sorry for themselves."
0847 GMT: Nell infers flaws in Pistorius' version of events, saying that bullet holes showed Steenkamp had her pants on when she was shot.
He also points to gaps in Pistorius' evidence: "There is still the position of the three cartridges, there is still the position of the firearm, there is still the position of the cellphone."
0843 GMT: The lawyer sounds a sarcastic note at times, strongly attacking Pistorius' version of the shooting, AFP's Myburgh reports:
"But why would she walk into the toilet with all of her clothes on, sit down and get shot?" Nel asks.
"Why would she not say 'where are you? What's going on?"
"To find his version probable, one must stretch."
Yesterday the court heard Pistorius' account in which he claims that he shot Steenkamp through the bathroom door after mistaking her for an intruder when she got up in the night to go to the toilet.
0835 GMT: Prosecutor Nel argues that Pistorius poses a flight risk, pointing to the sprinter's previous statements to suggest that he accepts no responsibility for his actions.
"I have not seen anywhere... I haven't heard that 'I admit I've caused a death unlawfully," says Nel, referring to the affidavit. "The way I read his affidavit: 'I've done nothing wrong.'"
He continues: "What we read is: 'Give me my passport. Let me go out, carry on with my career.' That's business as usual."
0829 GMT: Things are lot calmer in the court today, Myburgh tells us, following chaotic scenes Thursday.
Members of Pistorius' family are at the hearing again today, he says and the state is expected to take two hours to present its closing arguments. Word is that a bail decision is likely.
0819 GMT: The prosecuting lawyer kicks off his summing up by lambasting Pistorius for using affidavit, AFP's Johannes Myburgh reports from the court.
"If he really wanted to take the court in his confidence he would have testified," Nel says.
"One way of ensuring there's no misunderstanding or misrepresentation is to testify himself."
0809 GMT: Yesterday Pistorius' lawyer Barry Roux argued that the sprinter should be granted bail, rejecting the notion that there was a risk he would flee. He said there were "disastrous shortcomings in the state's case."
But prosecutor Gerrie Nel pointed out gaps in Pistorius' account of the shooting, arguing that the murder was premiditated. He should not be granted bail as he posed a flight risk, Nel argued.
Today Nel will finish his summing up and seek to make a firmer case after much of the prosecution's evidence was picked apart Thursday.
0752 GMT: Pistorius arrives in court where the prosecution is expected to wrap up its closing arguments today.
The decision over whether to grant bail falls to magistrate Desmond Nair. He could make that decision today, or delay his finding until after the weekend.
WELCOME TO AFP'S LIVE REPORT on the fourth day of Oscar Pistorius' bail hearing over the fatal Valentine's Day shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
The Olympic sprinter charged with the 29-year-old's murder is hoping to secure bail as prosecutors struggle to regain lost ground.
During three days of bail hearings at Pretoria Magistrate's Court the state's case has been severely undermined, not least by the replacement of lead prosecutor Botha Hilton after it emerged that he himself faced seven charges of attempted murder.
Lawyers have spent much of the hearings debating whether Pistorius intended to shoot Steenkamp. He denies the charge, saying that he shot her repeatedly through a locked bathroom door by accident, having mistaken her for a burglar.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency