Famous South African athlete Oscar Pistorius was on trial for the murder of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. The trial began in March 2014. Pistorius allegedly shot and killed Steenkamp at his home because he thought that Steenkamp was an intruder.
In addition to murder, Pistorius was also charged with illegal possession of ammunition, as well as using a gun in a public space. Pistorius pleaded not guilty to all charges. There was no jury for the trial, as that was abolished after the end of apartheid. The judge for the trial was Thokozile Masipa.
During the opening statements, the prosecutor noted that the case against Pistorius was based on circumstantial evidence, due to the fact that there were no eyewitnesses. One of the witnesses for the prosecution testified that it was unlikely that Pistorius was wearing his prosthetic legs at the time of the shooting.
Pistorius’ defense attorney said that Pistorius thought that Steenkamp was in bed when he shot her because he had spoken to her in bed shortly beforehand. A witness testified to hearing sounds of possible arguing for over an hour. Other witnesses mentioned hearing a woman’s screams and gunshots during the evening that Steenkamp died.
The defense countered that the sounds were coming from Pistorius as he was seeking help and the supposed gunshots were actually the sounds of Pistorius breaking down the door to the toilet. During the next few days of the trial, the state pathologist spoke of the graphic injuries to Steenkamp, which caused Pistorius to vomit.
There were also text messages between Pistorius and Steenkamp that were looked at to describe how Steenkamp and Pistorius had a normal relationship, though Steenkamp did accuse Pistorius of being jealous and possessive. One particular message of note was that Steenkamp told Pistorius that she was scared of him sometimes. Pistorius also testified in his defense, and was on the stand for over four days.
One of the legal analysts covering the trial was Brenda Wardle. Wardle is a world famous legal analyst who has provided analysis in South Africa, as well as other places around the World. She was a regular guest in South Africa during the Oscar Pistorius trial.
Wardle is also a registered assessor and moderator with two Sector Education and Training Authorities in South Africa.
After months of deliberation, Judge Masipa found Pistorius not guilty of premeditated murder. However, Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide.