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Pistorius accused of staging outbursts at trial



PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- Oscar Pistorius came under intense pressure Monday at his murder trial from the chief prosecutor, who dismissed his account of how he killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp as a flimsy web of lies and accused the Olympian of staging emotional outbursts to mask difficulty in answering a barrage of probing questions.

His voice quavering at times, Pistorius struggled to explain alleged inconsistencies in his testimony and broke down sobbing on two occasions, forcing Judge Thokozile Masipa to temporarily halt proceedings.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel was sometimes quick to acknowledge Pistorius' distress - possibly to allow him time to recover and avoid any defense argument that he is not getting a fair trial - but also said the athlete was frantically trying to shore up a fabricated story.

"You're getting frustrated because your version is improbable," Nel said, standing at a lectern and gesturing with his spectacles in his right hand. "You're not using your emotional state as an escape, are you?"

Pistorius said he wasn't in a "rational frame of mind" at the time of the shooting in his home in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013, suggesting he was therefore unable to remember some things about that night or explain some of his actions, such as rushing around with a cocked gun after he killed Steenkamp.

The cross-examination, which resumes for a fifth day Tuesday, is at a pivotal stage in a trial watched on television around the world by viewers who had admired the double-amputee runner for his track achievements. Once a role model with lucrative sponsorship deals, Pistorius is now a suspect in a witness box, challenged by an accuser in a black robe.

Pistorius faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder, and Nel's challenge is to prove the state's case beyond a reasonable doubt. Meticulously, he has sought to pick apart the runner's account, exposing what he describes as a pattern of improbabilities that, taken as a whole, prove Pistorius is lying when he says he mistakenly shot Steenkamp through the closed door of a toilet cubicle because he feared an intruder was inside.

Nel, who alleges that Pistorius killed his lover after an argument, noted that the athlete earlier said he whispered to Steenkamp to call police about an intruder, contradicting later testimony that he warned her in a "low tone." The prosecutor also said blood spatter evidence indicated that the athlete's statement about a duvet in the bedroom was false.

Pistorius has said the duvet was on the bed, and that police photographs of the bed cover on the floor suggest that police moved it there after the shooting. Nel said a pattern of blood drops on the duvet and on a nearby carpet show that it was on the floor before police arrived, and that its location amounts to evidence that the couple were arguing.

Nel also challenged Pistorius about his version of events after the shooting, asking why he didn't check outside a bathroom window to see if there might be a ladder used by a perceived intruder to gain entry, and why he didn't check to see if Steenkamp might have fled through the bedroom to another part of the house before concluding - in a "huge leap" of logic - that he had mistakenly shot her.

"It didn't even cross my mind to check the bedroom door," Pistorius replied, saying he was entirely focused on the possibility that Steenkamp was in the toilet cubicle.

Pistorius testified he fired four shots through the toilet door after hearing a "wood" sound that he mistook for the door being opened by a possible assailant. Pistorius said that, in retrospect, he probably heard a magazine holder being moved by his girlfriend.

He denied Nel's allegation that he heard Steenkamp fall against the magazine rack after being hit by the first shot, and used the noise to adjust his aim to make sure he hit her again. Steenkamp was hit by three shots.

The prosecutor tried to pin down Pistorius on whether he intended to shoot at the perceived intruder.

"I didn't have time to think about what I wanted to do," Pistorius replied, prompting Nel to question whether Pistorius was changing his legal strategy from "self-defense" to "involuntary action."

Pistorius said he shouted for any intruder or intruders to get out of his house and that he had no idea who was behind the toilet door when he fired. Nel remarked that, according to Pistorius' account, he didn't know whether a child, an unarmed burglar or more than one person could have been in the toilet stall.

"You never gave them a chance, in your version," Nel said, noting that he never fired a warning shot. The truth, the prosecutor argued, is that Pistorius shot to kill - and that his target was Steenkamp.

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Myke April 14 2014 at 7:07 PM

NOBODY should shoot thru a door not knowing who is on the other side. OMG if you even "think" you have an intruder trapped and locked inside your bathroom, step back 10 feet with your gun pointed at the door (in case he opens it and tries to rush you for instance) and call the police and let them deal with it. This man deserves prison for manslaugter at the VERY least, for murder more than likely.

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brncalicepl April 14 2014 at 6:43 PM

Didn't cross my mind to check the bathroom door, give a break, his girlfriend is nothing for him, could kill her like a mouse, what his say burn the patient of anyone. Poor prosecutor, but he get money for to have this.

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lov2elkhnt April 14 2014 at 6:43 PM

If everyone does what Oscar does we all would be up to our eyeballs in dead bodies and every home would look like swiss cheese with all the damned bullit holes. This guy is a weak coward at the least and best and at further glace, the guy is willing to kill to end an arguement.

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Laissez-faire April 14 2014 at 11:10 PM

This is "no contest". The guy's a killer...he'll get his. Zygi, snap out of it! Compassion is for the innocent...not him.

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Dottie April 14 2014 at 6:40 PM

I f he had REALLY called out she would have answered & said It's me DUMMY

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Russ April 14 2014 at 6:39 PM

I DO NOT BELIEVE OSCARS VERSION IT WAS OBVIOUS HE KNEW HIS GIRLFRIEND WAS IN THATROOM AFTER A POSSIBLE ARGUMENT SENDING HIM INTO A JEALOUS RAGE

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dcba1150 April 14 2014 at 6:38 PM

He did it! He killed her! Accident or not.

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Richard April 14 2014 at 11:36 PM

There are four charges against Pistorius: premeditated murder, illegal possession of ammunition and two counts of discharging a firearm in public. Obviously the murder charge is the most sever count but the trial covers all four counts. Pistorius acknowledges that he shot Steenkamp to death but says that he mistook her for an intruder.

Premeditation is that he intentionally shot and killed a person. The fact that Reeva was the person killed is not really an issue other than for the prosecution to provide a motive as an additional factor to convict Pistorius. Pistorius' original defense was that he had no intention of using his gun, no intention of discharging it four times randomly into the bathroom door, and thus, no intention of killing whoever was on the other side of the door. He testified that he doesn't remember getting the gun, shooting the gun, doesn't remember how many times he shot, and didn't know as a fact whether there was anyone in the bathroom, albeit a man, woman, or child. During cross-examination Pistorius had started to shift his defense to one of self-defense - that he so much (insanely?) feared for his and Reeva's lives from strange sounds coming from behind the closed and locked bathroom door that he shot at the door four times in self defense. But then rather than fleeing the apartment with Reeva, he breaks into the bathroom. Maybe Pistorius will change his defense again to temporary insanity. I'd say the judge still has a lot to consider on Pistorius' innocence or guilt.

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1 reply
roseyoungstewart Richard April 15 2014 at 12:14 AM

Oh please. Don't say you actually believe the story of some intruder? The neighbors in the condominium heard scr=eaming hollering banging on the floor and it had been that way at least three weeks off and on there is not intruder there never was. Its his yarn to throw people off. have you not seen or read the emails and text messages between them two? nothing but? i hate you"

Flag Reply +2 rate up
shadowknows1 April 14 2014 at 6:24 PM

Shaman26, this prosecutor needs no publicity as he is already a celebrity. He is the BULL DOG

Flag Reply +3 rate up
desmoi225 April 14 2014 at 6:22 PM

Prison until he's a very old, ugly man

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
Say NO to libs! desmoi225 April 14 2014 at 6:40 PM

Prison until he's in a box, just like his VICTIM.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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