March 13th, 2014
08:26 AM ET

Gruesome Shooting Scene Photos Sicken Oscar Pistorius at Murder Trial

Gruesome images shown at his murder trial Thursday were too much for Oscar Pistorius to take. He vomited.

He had covered his face before, when bloody photos flashed across court monitors of his own bathroom, where his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp lay after he shot her on Valentine's Day last year.

Otherwise, the South African Olympic runner wore an absent gaze, as he watched his defense lawyer painstakingly cross-examine a police expert, whose testimony a day earlier based on the door to that bathroom threatened to discredit him.

For a second day, attorney Barry Roux picked at forensic expert J.G. Vermeulen's testimony with fastidiously detailed questions about the validity of evidence offered by the dents, gashes and scratches on the door.

On Wednesday, Vermeulen, a police colonel, provided some of the trial's most dramatic testimony by swinging Pistorius' own bat at that very door from Pistorius' home, assembled in court for the judge in the Pretoria courtroom to see.

Pistorius, 27, has said that he bashed the door to get Steenkamp, who was 29, out of the locked bathroom by knocking a hole in it.

The prosecution does not dispute this. In fact, the prosecution and defense agree on some basic matters.

The point of contention is over a detail involving the runner's prosthetic legs.

Pistorius' natural legs are amputated below the knees, and he wears prostheses. He is widely known for the blade-shaped ones he dons for track competitions, which have garnered him the nickname "Blade Runner."

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March 12th, 2014
07:59 AM ET

Police Expert: Oscar Pistorius Not Wearing Prosthetic Legs After Shooting

A police forensic expert testified Wednesday that it appeared Oscar Pistorius was not wearing his prosthetic legs when he knocked down a bathroom door with a cricket bat after killing his girlfriend.

Pistorius has said he tried to break open the door when he realized he'd shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, last year.

Forensic scientist Col. J.G. Vermeulen took the stand to discuss marks on a cricket bat and a bent steel plate found in the bathroom door after the shooting.

In his testimony, which used the actual bathroom door, Vermeulen had to squat to highlight the marks on the door. He said the location of the spots on the door is consistent with Pistorius not wearing his prosthetic legs.

"From the forensic evidence, he was on his stumps," Vermeulen said.

The door will also be used to show the trajectory of the bullet, which both sides can use to argue whether it was premeditated murder or not.

Pistorius, the first double-amputee to run in the Olympic Games, regularly wears prosthetic legs. If he was not wearing them at the time, the trajectory will be lower and the defense can argue that he was feeling vulnerable and didn't have time to think.

Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to murder in the shooting on Valentine's Day last year.

He admits killing the 29-year-old by shooting her through a locked bathroom door in his house. However, he says he mistook her for a burglar in the middle of the night, and argues it was a tragic but understandable mistake.

Friend: Pistorius sped, fired

Before the scientist took the stand, a friend of Pistorius who was with him twice when guns went off in the South African track star's hands was back on the stand to testify against him.

Prosecutors trying to convict Pistorius of murdering his girlfriend have charged him with breaking gun laws on both occasions.

The incidents were not connected to the fatal shooting of Steenkamp, but prosecutors appear to be using them to demonstrate that Pistorius is not safe around guns.

He grinned and shook his head as his friend, Darren Fresco, testified Wednesday about speeding during an incident that ended with the track star firing a shot out the sunroof of the car.

Pistorius was driving about 200 kilometers per hour, Fresco said. He said Pistorius was "furious" that police had touched his gun in one of the incidents, and later fired a shot out the sunroof of the car Fresco was driving.

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March 7th, 2014
08:00 AM ET

Ex-Girlfriend: Pistorius Cheated On Me, Kept Gun By His Bed

The former girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius, the track star charged with murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, testified Friday that their relationship ended when he cheated on her with Steenkamp.

Samantha Taylor also testified that Pistorius slept with a pistol on his bedside table or on the floor beside his prosthetic legs, and once became so angry after a traffic stop that he shot a gun through the sunroof of a car.

Pistorius pleaded not guilty Monday to one charge of murder and a firearms charge associated with Steenkamp's killing on Valentine's Day 2013, as well as two gun indictments unrelated to her death. Pistorius, 27, nicknamed "Blade Runner," has admitted killing his 29-year-old model girlfriend, but says it was a tragic error after he mistook her for an intruder.

Taylor said she met Pistorius in 2010, when she was 17, and they started dating the following year. She said they broke up twice, the second time on November 4, 2012, after he took Steenkamp to a sports banquet.

Defense lawyer Barry Roux asked if Taylor admitted in two e-mails to cheating on Pistorius. Taylor says she's never admitted to cheating on him but admits she had a relationship with another man after they broke up the first time.

Roux also asked Taylor for details about the time he supposedly shot the gun out of the sunroof of a car that they were both traveling in as passengers, but Taylor could not remember the name of the highway or the part of South Africa where the incident happened.

Taylor testified that Pistorius was angry and irritated after the traffic stop, even though he was not driving. She said he joked around about firing a shot and then, after he fired the shot, he laughed.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked Taylor if she was ever at Pistorius' house and he thought there was an intruder. Taylor said yes.

Taylor said Pistorius once heard something hit the bathroom window and woke her up to ask if she'd heard it, too. Taylor said Pistorius woke her up other times when he thought he'd heard a noise.

The fifth day of the Pistorius murder trial opened Friday with the defense trying to chip away at testimony of a neighbor who rushed to the track star's home the night he shot Steenkamp.

Roux pointed out that Johan Stipp, a doctor who lived near Pistorius and the first person to arrive at the scene, made two statements to police and both times said he heard "two or three shots."

"You could not be sure of the number of noises you heard," Roux said.

"It would be fair to say that," said Stipp, on his second day of testimony.

Roux also asked Stipp about screams he heard. Stipp said Thursday the man's screaming came from "much more to the left" of the initial screams. On Friday, Stipp said the screams came "slightly from the left."

Pistorius broke down in court Thursday as Stipp said he went to Pistorius' residence after hearing the shots. He said he saw Steenkamp lying on the floor, her brain tissue mixed with blood and Pistorius praying for her to live.

"I remember the first thing he said when I got there was, 'I shot her, I thought she was a burglar and I shot her,' " Stipp told the court in Pretoria.

And although Stipp is a prosecution witness, his testimony may in fact bolster the defense case, CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps said after Thursday's dramatic testimony.

Prosecutors appear to have been trying to demonstrate that Pistorius and Steenkamp had a loud argument before the shooting, suggesting that is the reason he killed her.

But the defense is proposing that what neighbors thought was Steenkamp screaming in fear for her life was in fact Pistorius screaming when he realized what he had done.

Pistorius and at least two neighbors made phone calls to security after the shooting, allowing the defense to use phone records to establish a timeline of events to the second.

Stipp's version of events appears to coincide with the defense case, said Phelps, who teaches law at the University of Cape Town.

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March 6th, 2014
11:18 AM ET

Pistorius Trial Gets Grisly

Track star Oscar Pistorius broke down in court Thursday, the fourth day of his murder trial, as a neighbor described the grisly scenes when he tried to save the athlete's girlfriend after a fatal shooting on Valentine's Day 2013.

The amputee sprinter, 27, nicknamed "Blade Runner," has pleaded not guilty to all four counts against him, saying the killing of modelReeva Steenkamp, 29, was a tragic error and he mistook her for an intruder.

In graphic testimony, witness Johan Stipp, a doctor who lived close by, said he went to Pistorius' residence after hearing shots fired. He said he saw Steenkamp mortally wounded, her brain tissue mixed with blood and Pistorius praying for her to live.

"I remember the first thing he said when I got there was, 'I shot her, I thought she was a burglar and I shot her,' " Stipp told the court in Pretoria.

He said he had arrived and found Steenkamp's body lying at the bottom of the stairs. Pistorius was bent over her body with his left hand over her right groin and two fingers of his right hand in her mouth as he tried to clear her airway.

Stipp tried to assist and said he found no signs of pulse in her neck, no peripheral pulse nor breathing movements.

As the doctor described the details of her injuries to the court, Pistorius broke down with his head in his hands. He was also seen convulsing but then recovered and wiped his face and nose with a handkerchief.

Stipp, who said he had trained in the army with assault rifles and 9 mm pistols - the gun that killed Steenkamp - said he had been surprised to hear no ambulance had been called when he arrived. He left after it did.

Lawyers are battling over whether the world-famous athlete killed his girlfriend on purpose or by mistake when he fired four bullets through a closed bathroom door at her.

He wanted her to live'

Stipp told the court he did not realize Pistorius lived in the house until the day after the shooting when his wife told him.

The doctor was later cross-examined by defense attorney Barry Roux, who has been working toward establishing that Pistorius was the one heard screaming after the shots were fired.

Roux said he had consulted three specialists and the autopsy and asked Stipp: "That person after the shots would not have been able to scream. That person would be nonresponsive, does that make sense to you as a medical doctor?"

"It does," Stipp replied.

The prosecution interjected, saying Steenkamp could have screamed after the first shot. Earlier in the week, prosecutor Gerrie Nel, reading a report from an expert, told the court that of the four bullets fired toward Steenkamp "the fourth bullet hit her in the head. She then died."

Pistorius sat impassively during the exchange between Roux and Stipp. He leaned forward, his head down in his hand, as his attorney asked Stipp if the athlete had wanted Steenkamp to live.

"He definitely wanted her to live, yes," Stipp replied. "He looked sincere to me. He was crying; there were tears on his face."

After the court adjourned for the day Thursday, Pistorius was in tears as his sister consoled him.

Witness grilled over notes

Earlier Roux had cross-examined another neighbor who testified that he heard shouting from Pistorius' house before the shooting.

Charl Johnson, husband of the trial's first witness, was back on the stand after the defense team wanted to retrieve notes he had taken in the weeks after the shooting. Roux grilled Johnson about the notes such as "the screams did not sound like fighting but more like the panic and distress calls of being attacked."

Roux established that Johnson and his wife, Michelle Burger, thought they were hearing noise from a house break-in and not from an act of domestic violence. Nel said Roux was taking individual sentences out of context.

Johnson also testified he owns the same caliber gun as the one that killed Steenkamp and he has fired a firearm before and knows what it sounds like. When Roux asked if he has heard it from the distance of one house to another, he said did not have a similar experience to relate it to but was convinced he knew what the noise sounds like regardless of distance.

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