10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Oscar Pistorius Case

10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Oscar Pistorius Case

By AFK Insider on March 11, 2014
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Oscar Pistorius pictured in court.

ibitimes.co.uk

Oscar Pistorius was South Africa’s golden child. His against-all-odds success story was an inspiration for amputees, the physically disabled, and athletes in general. But storm clouds have gathered around his name, his legacy, and his fanship since Valentine’s Day, 2013, when Pistorius’s girlfriend was found shot to death at his home. After a year of scandal, gossip, evidence, and anticipation his trial is underway. Is he the O.J. Simpson of South Africa? Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Oscar Pistorius case and his media-frenzied, turbulent homicide trial.

1. The Early Years

sheknows.com

Born to white South African-Italian parents on Nov. 22, 1986, in Johannesburg, Pistorius came into the world suffering from fibular hemimela, which is the absence of a fibula at birth. In Pistorius’s case, both fibulas were absent, and at 11 months, both his legs were amputated halfway between the ankles and kneecaps. He was fitted with prosthetics. This did not stop his athleticism: at school, Pistorius excelled at water polo, tennis, and rugby –the latter sport caused him a knee injury in high school. He soon took an interest in running.

2. The Blade Runner

guim.co.uk

guim.co.uA

After a few trials with fitted prosthetic running blades, Pistorius finally received his running blades through American sprinter and prosthetics expert Brian Frasure. Össur, an Icelandic company, fashioned his new legs, technically called carbon fiber J-shaped limbs. Months later, he won a gold medal in the 200-meter race in the 2004 Athens Paralympics, and set a Paralympics world record. He started to take these events by storm, winning gold medals and consistently besting his own world records in the 2005 Paralympic World Cup and 2006 Paralympic Athletics World Championship. Overall, he has won six gold medals in the last three Paralympic Games.

3. Pistorius and the Olympics

theguardian.com

theguardian.com

The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) initially banned Pistorius from competing with able-bodied Olympians. The feeling was his prosthetics would put him at an advantage. A series of field tests of Pistorius were done, and scientists seconded the IAAF’s emotions. Pistorius appealed the ruling, and the ban was reversed. He did not make it to the Olympics until London 2012, and then became the world’s first amputee runner to compete as an able-bodied Olympian. He placed eighth in the 400-meter semifinal, although weeks later at the Paralympics cleaned up with two gold medals, breaking yet more records for the 400-meter and the 4 X 100-meter relay.

4. Valentine’s Day, 2013

biography.com

biography.com

Oscar Pistorius had been dating South African supermodel and TV personality Reeva Steenkamp (above) for more than a year when police got a call in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013. Johann Stander, the housing complex manager where Pistorius lived, received urgent plea to call an ambulance to Pistorius’s Pretoria home. When the police arrived, they found Steenkamp shot to death. Pistorius was carrying her body down the stairs. He was immediately arrested. The world awakened to the shocking news, and the next day Pistorius was charged with the premeditated murder. During the bail hearing, both the defense and prosecution agreed that Pistorius had fired four shots, hitting Steenkamp three times. The argument of premeditation v. manslaughter began. By March 1, Pistorius was out of jail on bail.

5. Oscar Pistorius Defense Statement

rapgenius.com

rapgenius.com

Here is an overview of the defense statement read aloud at his bail hearing on Feb. 19, 2013: Pistorius denied all allegations “in the strongest terms.” Underneath his bed, he said he kept a nine-millimeter Parabellum for self-defense. He said that he had received death threats. When he awoke in the early morning, he heard a sound from the bathroom. His prosthetic legs unattached, he grabbed his gun and fired three shots at the closed bathroom door. Realizing Steenkamp was not asleep in bed, he burst through the door and found her, apparently still alive but hit with the bullets. He called John Stander to phone for an ambulance, then went back upstairs, picked up Steenkamp and carried her down to the front door. She died soon after in his arms. “I am absolutely mortified by the events and the devastating loss of my beloved Reeva,” the statement said.

6. The Months Leading up to the Trial

sports.yahoo.com

sports.yahoo.com

Ban imposed on Pistorius against visiting his home where the shooting happened, drinking alcohol, or traveling were lifted in March 2013 by Judge Bert Bam. In June, Pistorius returned to training, reportedly appearing gaunt and disheveled. Theories, arguments, and conversation flourished surrounding the uncertainty of Pistorius’s fate. On June 4, the trial was postponed, and at a hearing on Aug. 19, Pistorius was formally indicted with two counts of premeditated murder and illegal possession of a weapon. The date of March 3, 2014, was set for the official trial at Gauteng Division of the High Court.

7. The Trial Starts

ann7.com

ann7.com

On March 3, the trial started at Pretoria’s High Court, presided over by Judge Thokozile Masipa (above). Oscar Pistorius pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. His defense attorney is Barry Roux, an Afrikaaner who many describe as “cocky,” but who labeled himself to a reporter as “just a teddy bear.” Seasoned prosecuting attorney Gerrie Nel, described as “fiery,” and his co-prosecutor Andrea Johnson have already dug up elements suggesting Pistorius has a rather dark, if not trigger-happy nature. Testimony by his ex-girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, recounted an incident where Pistorius emptied bullets at a traffic light after police pulled him over. She also claims he was constantly in possession of a firearm, and that he cheated on her with Reeva Steenkamp, ultimately leaving her for Steenkamp.

8. How the South African Courts Work

Thinkstock

Thinkstock

For those more familiar with the American judicial system, trials are held in South African high courts. There has not been a jury in this country’s court system since 1969 — only a presiding judge who considers the presented evidence and makes the final verdict. In this case, Judge Masipa and her two appointed assessors will consider the evidence. There are better chances for an appeal in South Africa on account of the absence of a jury. If Pistorius is found guilty of murder, the appellate court is likely to attempt to overturn the charges.

9. An Overview of the Testimony Thus Far

cnnworldlive.com

cnnworldlive.com

Days one and two of the trial included various witnesses, all of them Pistorius’s neighbors, testifying to hearing arguments followed by a woman’s screams and gunshots from the Pistorius residence that February morning. Burger is quoted: “I heard her (Steenkamp’s) anxiety. She was very scared.” For the first time, Pistorius was seen experiencing an emotional breakdown. The defense argued on day three that the gunshot-like sounds heard were actually Pistorius breaking down the bathroom door. Day four consisted of Johan Stipp, another neighbor, and his story of finding Pistorius knelt over Steenkamp’s body praying, saying “I shot her. I thought she was a burgler.” Day five was mainly Rebecca Taylor taking the stand. All the while, Steenkamp’s mother June and Pistorius’s sister Aimee observed from their seats.

10. The Media Frenzy

espn.go.com

espn.go.com

After day five on Friday, the court adjourned until Monday, March 10. The circus antics of the international press show no signs of letting up. Did you know that there was an entire media network and channel created just to televise the trial? Yep, you can watch it all on Oscar Live, broadcast from a brand new studios. Scores of international news channels are camped under media tents outside the courtroom. “The media must behave. They will not be treated with soft gloves,” warned Masipa. Irish bookie Paddy Power received international condemnation and a 100,000-signature petition calling for him to take down his ad offering to reimburse those who lose bets if Pistorius is deemed not guilty.

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