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Oscar Pistorius: His entire life story on trial

  • File - South Africa's Oscar Pistorius wins gold in the men's 400-meter T44 final at the 2012 Paralympics, in London, Sept. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

JOHANNESBURG: With his past triumphs now tarnished because he shot to death his girlfriend, Oscar Pistorius Monday will enter court to be confronted with the jarring possibility that he will be sent to prison for at least 25 years.

For the champion runner without legs, who trained himself to overcome all obstacles, nothing else matters now but beating the murder charge against him.

Pistorius’ family said Saturday that their focus is only on the trial. If found guilty, Pistorius’ entire life story will be recast.

When Pistorius walks on his prosthetics into court for the start of his trial, seemingly little remains of the Blade Runner, the double amputee who ran alongside the world’s best and inspired many by overcoming the loss of his legs before he was a year old.

Now, the 27-year-old Olympian must fight allegations that, in a rage, he intentionally shot at girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp four times through a toilet door, killing her. Prosecutors allege that Pistorius then lied extensively about the shooting, throwing doubt on everything the world thought it knew about him.

Pistorius’ life is up for debate, not just the events in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel called Pistorius a man “willing and ready to fire and kill” as the state charged him with premeditated murder. Prosecutors say there was “a measure of preparation” in the way he killed Steenkamp after the couple argued loudly at his home.

Pistorius gives a totally different story, saying he was terrified in the mistaken belief that there was a dangerous intruder in his home about to hurt him and the woman he says he loved dearly.

“I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself,” Pistorius says in an 11-page affidavit, his only testimony so far. She died in his arms, he says.

The state’s account makes Pistorius out to be a cold and calculating killer; his own description is of a disabled man on his stumps and afraid who made a terrible mistake. Which version is true? It is the question that will underline Pistorius’ entire trial.

It’s a case where forensic and ballistic experts and criminal psychologists will feature, and where a toilet door, bullet trajectory, blood spatter, cellphone records and the debate over gun ownership and South Africa’s violent crime problem will play a part, all revolving around a famous figure.

Most of the trial will be broadcast live from Courtroom GD in Pretoria’s high court building.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 03, 2014, on page 10.
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