PRETORIA, South Africa — The defense team for Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius closed its case Tuesday in his murder trial for the slaying of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, thus transitioning into the next step in the trial and ending months of emotionally wrenching cross-examination.
The court was adjourned to allow both sides to prepare written legal arguments based on the thousands of pages of testimony in the trial that has enthralled South Africans, who have witnessed Pistorius, once a national hero, at times weeping and retching over gruesome details of Steenkamp's shooting death.
Pistorius, the double amputee athlete known as the Blade Runner because of the carbon fiber blades he wore to compete, shot to international fame as the first disabled athlete to compete in the London Olympics in 2012.
His golden future was shattered when he was charged with murder for shooting Steenkamp at his house on Valentine's Day last year. A psychologist's report to the court last week said Pistorius is depressed, has a sleep disorder and is suffering from post-traumatic stress.
Steenkamp was locked inside a toilet cubicle off his bathroom when he shot her. Prosecutors allege he murdered her after a lover's quarrel, but Pistorius insists he heard a noise and mistook her for a burglar when he fired four shots toward the bathroom. Four Black Talon-style expanding bullets, designed to exact maximum tissue damage, went through the door. Three hit Steenkamp, killing her within minutes.
Pistorious also faces three charges related to illegal handling of guns and ammunition.
The prosecution now has until July 30 to submit its written legal arguments. The defense must submit its arguments by Aug. 4. The court will resume Aug. 7 for both sides to present closing oral arguments to the court.
Pistorius faces life in jail if convicted of murder. If convicted of culpable homicide, the penalty is up to the discretion of the court, depending how reckless his actions are deemed to have been.