Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee Olympian known as the Blade Runner, will go on trial beginning March 3 after being indicted Monday on a charge of premeditated murder for the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
Pistorius wept and held his brother’s and sister’s hands before the hearing, which fell on what would have been the 30th birthday of Reeva Steenkamp, in Pretoria, South Africa. His trial is scheduled to begin March 3 before a judge in High Court in Pretoria. South Africa does not have trial by jury.
Pistorius, 26, contends the Feb. 14 shooting of Steenkamp, a model and budding reality TV show star, was accidental and that he mistook her for an intruder. He said he thought Steenkamp was in bed and was not aware she was in the toilet cubicle that he fired through four times.
The prosecutors offered a vastly different version of the events.
The prosecution will attempt to show the couple argued before she was killed as part of its case that Pistorius intended to kill Steenkamp.
Possibly covering their bases, prosecutors also said in the indictment papers that Pistorius shot “with the intention to kill a person,” and even if the trial judge believes that Pistorius didn’t know it was Steenkamp in the locked toilet cubicle when he fired through its door, they said he was still guilty of murder.
Witnesses heard a woman scream before gunshorts were fired, the prosecution said in the 11-page indictment. Prosecutors submitted a list of 107 witnesses, which include Pistorius’ uncle Arnold, sister Aimee and brother Carl.
Also on the witness list are several former girlfriends who it’s understood will testify about Pistorius’ previous aggressive behavior. On that particular theme is witness number 34, South African boxing star Kevin Lerena, who was with Pistorius when he fired a loaded gun in a crowded Johannesburg restaurant last year. Lerena was shot in the foot and will form part of the state’s case, which aims to portray Pistorius as a trigger-happy, aggressive bully.
Another witness is former police investigator Hilton Botha. He was removed from the case after it was discovered that he was facing attempted murder charges of his own.
Botha told Vanity Fair in June that the crime scene showed Steenkamp was “cowering in the toilet with her arms crossed, which would account for why one bullet had gone through her fingers before entering her arm.”
Pistorius was also indicted on a charge of illegal possession of ammunition.
In South Africa, people can possess ammunition only if they’re licensed to own a gun, and their ammunition must be specific to that weapon. Pistorius has acknowledged storing ammunition for a gun his father owned.
In addition to the witnessess, cell phone records and examination of the door in which Pistorius’ shot through will be key pieces of evidence, according to the indictment.
The angle or trajectory of the bullets could show if Pistorius was standing on his stumps when he shot, as he says, or if he was on his prosthetics, as the prosecution maintains — a marked difference in the two accounts along with the alleged fight between him and Steenkamp.