When Will Oscar Pistorius' Verdict Be Read? The Trial Has Dragged Longer Than Anyone Imagined
On Monday, the Oscar Pistorius murder trial resumed with all the dramatics that have come to be expected of the now-two-month-old ordeal. The defense, led by Barry Roux, called two new witnesses to the stand to testify on behalf of Pistorius, in an attempt to salvage the former Olympian's story and reinforce claims of his remorse after model-girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp's death. After "pitbull" prosecutor Gerrie Nel left Pistorius sobbing and vomiting in court two weeks ago following a brutal and damaging cross-examination, it looks like the defense will need to do some serious damage control in order to prove the credibility of his story.
Pistorius' defense team has said they plan to call between 14 and 17 witnesses, and with only five having taken the stand thus far, it seems that the trial will not come to a close anytime soon. Though initially slated to take a mere two weeks, South African holidays and judiciary proceedings have elongated the process considerably. The trial adjourned on April 17 because both legal teams had other cases on their dockets to attend to, and have since returned to Pistorius.
There is much speculation that the defense's next witness will be ballistics expert Tom "Wollie" Wolmarans, who is thought of as one of the best forensics expert in the field. However, the court will likely face another delay on Wednesday to accommodate a voting holiday.
Roux has said that he hopes to finish his case by May 16, after which the court will again adjourn in order to give both sides time to prepare their closing arguments. The trial will then again be postponed to allow for Judge Masipa to come to her decision about Pistorius' sentence. Currently, hopes are for a verdict by the end of July, four months after the start of the trial in early March.
On Monday, Roux called on father and daughter neighbors Johan Stander and Carice Stander Viljoen to serve as the fourth and fifth defense witnesses. (Two experts and Pistorius himself testified previously.) Both Stander and Viljoen verified Pistorius' account of the tragic events that transpired on Valentine's Day of 2013 — Pistorius thought there was an intruder, and shot Steenkamp by accident.
Stander recalls answering the telephone in the early morning hours of Feb. 14, 2013, to a terrified Pistorius saying, "Please, please, please come to my house, I shot Reeva. I thought she was an intruder. Please, please come quick." According to Stander, who owns the Silver Woods Estate where Pistorius lived at the time of the killing, Pistorius was "praying, crying, torn apart" after realizing he had shot Steenkamp.
As the first person on the scene, Stander was adamant that the emotions Pistorius displayed in court throughout the trial were consistent with those immediately following Steenkamp's death, saying :
His commitment to save the young lady's life -- when he put his finger in the young lady's mouth ... how he begged her to stay alive. ... I saw the truth that morning. I saw it. And I feel it.
Stander told the courtroom that he realized Steenkamp had suffered a head wound, but Pistorius continued to plead with him to help save her. Said Stander, “He was really crying; he was in pain. He asked us to please assist him and put Reeva in the car and take her to the hospital.”
The "us" Stander referred to includes his daughter Carice Stander Vijoen, who took the stand after her father. Vijoen had a similar story to tell, and corroborated the defense's claims of Pistorius' sincere remorse and regret. She remembers Pistorius "begging and pleading with Reeva to please stay with him."
Vijoen also testified to hearing someone screaming, "Help! Help!" when she rushed next door with her father to aid Pistorius. She described the gruesome scene, saying "I just saw blood everywhere," and Pistorius' palpable panic. According to Vijoen, the Blade Runner begged her to help him transport Steenkamp to the car, saying, "Carice, please, Carice, please, can we just get her to the hospital?"
Vijoen also spoke of her fear that Pistorius would commit suicide in heartbreak, and she broke down in tears during her testimony, saying the ordeal "is not something I would like to experience again." Judge Thokozile Masipa offered Vijoen a break, but she declined, and continued her story in defense of Pistorius.