Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

Pistorius pleads not guilty at start of his murder trial

PRETORIA, South Africa — Oscar Pistorius pleaded not guilty Monday to murdering his girlfriend on Valentine's Day last year, marking the start of the Olympian's murder trial that was being broadcast live on TV.

The first witness, a neighbor of Pistorius, was called before even an hour had passed. The trial itself started 90 minutes late with Pistorius pleading not guilty to murder, two charges relating to discharge of a firearm in a public place and one charge of illegal possession of ammunition.

The double-amputee athlete is charged with murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in the predawn hours of Feb. 14, 2013. Pistorius says he shot Steenkamp by accident, thinking she was an intruder inside his bathroom.

Before the trial started, Pistorius walked past the victim's mother who says she came to court so she can "really look him in the eyes."

Defense lawyer Kenny Oldwadge laid out Pistorius' legal strategy, reading a statement from the runner in which he says the killing was an accident and that there were inconsistencies in the state's case, as well as an attempt to introduce inadmissible character evidence to discredit him.

In the statement, Pistorius said he brought two fans in from the balcony on the night of the killing, after speaking to his girlfriend, who was in bed beside him. He said Steenkamp must have gone into the bathroom while he was fetching the fans. Pistorius said he did not notice that she had gone and heard the bathroom window open.

"I approached the bathroom, armed with my firearm, so as to defend Reeva and I," Pistorius said in the statement that was read by his lawyer.

He said he then heard a noise in the toilet, and was in a "fearful state" because he was unable to run away or defend himself physically since he was not wearing his prostheses.

"The state has embarked on a strategy to rely on unsubstantiated allegations," he said, citing a neighbor's testimony that an argument had been heard in his home.

According to Pistorius' statement, other neighbors living nearby said they had not heard any argument.

He also cited evidence provided by police detective Hilton Botha as "false in material respects."

"The scene was contaminated, disturbed and tampered with," the defense statement said. "This feature of the state's case will be dealt with when Botha, among others, gives evidence."

In the courtroom, Pistorius, wearing a dark gray suit and black tie, was seated near Steenkamp's mother, June. She was quoted in the Pretoria News, which published an interview she gave to a British newspaper, saying that she wants to see Pistorius.

"I want to look at Oscar, really look him in the eyes, and see for myself the truth about what he did to Reeva," said June Steenkamp, 67. "Whatever the court decides at the end of his trial, I will be ready to forgive him ... But first I want to force him to look at me, Reeva's mother, and see the pain and anguish he has inflicted on me. I feel I need that."

Reeva Steenkamp was a glamorous model and budding reality TV show star when she was killed at age 29.

Earlier, a drone carrying cameras flew over the entrance to the courthouse in gray, drizzly skies. Several broadcasters massed live broadcast satellite trucks around the courthouse. A 24-hour cable channel devoted to covering the trial was launched in South Africa on Sunday.

If convicted on the murder charge, Pistorius could be sent to prison for at least 25 years before the chance of parole, the minimum time someone must serve if given a life sentence in South Africa. South Africa does not have the death penalty.

A lesser sentence is possible if Pistorius is found guilty of murder but without premeditation. He also could be convicted of culpable homicide, South Africa's version of manslaughter in which someone is killed through negligence.

The additional firearms charges relate to him allegedly shooting out of the sunroof of a car in one incident and another when he allegedly fired a gun inside a restaurant, apparently by mistake.

Judge Thokozile Masipa, hearing the biggest trial of her career, will ultimately pronounce the champion runner innocent or guilty and will decide on any sentence. South Africa has no trial by jury.

Parts of the trial will be broadcast on live television, both in South Africa and across the world. A South African cable channel has been launched which will provide 24-hour coverage of the Pistorius trial, using commentators and prepared feature stories when the court is not in session.

Comments

Updated: 15 minutes ago
Ex-wife said heart attack, but court record says Hillsborough developer was strangled in North Carolina home

Ex-wife said heart attack, but court record says Hillsborough developer was strangled in North Carolina home

A prominent Hillsborough County developer who died last month in North Carolina was strangled and police are investigating his death as suspicious, court records show. William "Bill" Bishop died in a hospital three days after his 16-year-old son repo...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For starters: Rays vs. Red Sox, with Archer facing Price

For starters: Rays vs. Red Sox, with Archer facing Price

The Rays are set to take on the Red Sox again tonight with a bit of a student-mentor framing as Chris Archer takes on former Tampa Bay ace David Price.The Rays announced they are putting RHP Jake Faria on the 10-day DL due to the oblique strain he su...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Stock up for hurricanes, Buckhorn warns, or ‘we may be coming for you in a body bag’

Stock up for hurricanes, Buckhorn warns, or ‘we may be coming for you in a body bag’

TAMPA — Stuff that hurricane kit full of batteries, pen that emergency plan and, for goodness sake, get as many gallons stored in the garage as possible while the skies are blue and clouds are fluffy white. That was the message Tampa Mayor Bob Buckh...
Updated: 1 hour ago
‘I didn’t care if they cut my leg off or not’: Kilauea lava bomb survivor describes agony

‘I didn’t care if they cut my leg off or not’: Kilauea lava bomb survivor describes agony

The sheer force of the lava bomb was what Darryl Clinton remembered feeling first, more powerful than any waves he had ever encountered in the ocean surrounding Hawaii.It knocked him backward on the third-floor lanai of his neighbor’s home on the eas...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Mother fatally struck while pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa

Mother fatally struck while pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa

TAMPA— A mother was killed Wednesday when she was struck by a vehicle while pushing a stroller on Bayshore Boulevard, according to the Tampa Police Department.The mother and 2-year-old girl were struck by a northbound car around 11:43 a.m. near W Kni...
Updated: 1 hour ago
State softball: Land O’Lakes advances to second straight title game

State softball: Land O’Lakes advances to second straight title game

VERO BEACH — Land O'Lakes had just finished a hard-fought 5-0 victory over Clay in the Class 6A state semifinal. Callie Turner threw a no-hitter. Jolene Bodner had a two-run single.The win was big, clinching the Gators' second straight champion...
Updated: 1 hour ago
State baseball: Carrollwood Day comes up a run short in semifinals

State baseball: Carrollwood Day comes up a run short in semifinals

FORT MYERS — One swing.That's all it took for Carrollwood Day's historic season to come to an end.With two outs and two runners on in the third inning of the Class 3A state semifinal against Tallahassee North Florida Christian, Patriots starter...
Updated: 2 hours ago
No. 2-seeded USF falls to Wichita State in AAC tourney opener

No. 2-seeded USF falls to Wichita State in AAC tourney opener

Second-seeded USF was greeted Wednesday morning at the American Athletic Conference tournament by a bright sky and bracket poised to burst.Yet on a day the Bulls (32-19-1) could've made real noise in this eight-team event, their bats elicited nary a ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
NFL policy: Players can stay inside during anthem if they won’t stand

NFL policy: Players can stay inside during anthem if they won’t stand

NFL owners passed a new policy Wednesday with the hopes of moving on from boycotts and political turmoil related to some players protesting by not standing during the national anthem before games.Under the new policy, NFL players are not required to ...
Updated: 2 hours ago