Pistorius awaits verdict in murder trial

South African sprinter and former poster boy for disabled sport accused of killing his model girlfriend in 2013.

    South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius is set to appear in court to face judgement over the killing of his model girlfriend.

    Judge Thokozile Masipa's ruling on charges of murder and three firearms offences will likely be laid out in two days starting on Thursday, with the final verdict expected on Friday.

    The 27-year-old amputee faces life behind bars - and notoriety that would eclipse his athletic achievements - if found guilty of deliberately killing 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp on February 14, 2013.

    The half-year trial has fed intense media interest worldwide, with live broadcasts veering into the realm of television reality shows.

    Nearly 40 witnesses testified, including Pistorius, who broke down, weeping and at times vomiting as he heard how Steenkamp's head "exploded" like a watermelon under the impact of his hollow-point bullet.

    Prosecutors described the double amputee as an egotistical liar obsessed with guns, fast cars and beautiful women, who was not prepared to take responsibility for his actions.

    Defence lawyers sought to explain there are "two Oscars": a world-class athlete and a highly vulnerable individual with a serious disability who acted out of fear, not anger, when he fired the fatal shots.

    In an interview with Al Jazeera, James Grant, a law professor, said the televised trial of Pistorius was good for the South African legal system.

    "Particularly in South Africa, it's been a chance to see justice in action in a way most would never see it in their lives. But there has been that ever present threat of sensationalism we must be aware of," he said.

    Legal argument

    At its heart, the trial is simple. Pistorius killed Steenkamp, a law graduate, when he fired four shots through a locked toilet door in his home in Pretoria.

    The sprinter does not deny this. The question is why he did it.

    He says he thought he was shooting at an intruder and that Steenkamp was safely in bed.

    The prosecution says he killed her in a fit of rage after an argument.

    Judge Masipa may decide that Pistorius is innocent, or that the state has not done enough to prove its case, resulting in an acquittal.

    But if she decides Pistorius deliberately murdered Steenkamp, he could face a life sentence, which in South Africa means 25 years in jail.

    Masipa could also decide that Pistorius did not kill her intentionally, but did act recklessly, opening the door to a lesser charge of culpable homicide, which could still carry a prison term.

    Any guilty verdict is unlikely to be the end of the matter, with the possibility of an appeal.

    Once a poster boy for disabled sport, he has been stripped of lucrative endorsement deals by global brands and has withdrawn from all competition.

    Steenkamp, voted one of the 100 Sexiest Women in the World by FHM magazine in 2011 and 2012, also had a high profile before her untimely death.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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