Olympics

Pistorius calls in US forensic experts

Share This Story

   
 

JOHANNESBURG (AP)

Oscar Pistorius' lawyers are working with a team of American forensic specialists to help prepare the double-amputee Olympian's defense, and likely counter any evidence given by the nearly 50 police officers and criminal experts that prosecutors could call at his murder trial early next year.

The U.S. forensic team is now in South Africa, Pistorius' spokeswoman told The Associated Press on Tuesday, although she could not give any details of their identities or areas of expertise, or if they would stay for the trial, which begins in March and has been scheduled to last just over two weeks.

"A team of forensic specialists from the United States is currently in the country working with Oscar's defense team," spokeswoman Anneliese Burgess said. "We don't want to go into great detail about this except to stay it is very standard practice to work with specialists from various fields in preparation for any trial."

Burgess said the team of specialists visited the house where Pistorius is staying accompanied by his lawyers on Monday, according to the South African Press Association.

PISTORIUS' CAREER

A look back at the memorable moments in Oscar Pistorius' career.

Pistorius will go on trial at the North Gauteng High Court in the South African capital Pretoria from Mar. 3, accused of premeditated murder in the shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his house on Feb. 14. The 26-year-old athlete, for years the inspiring poster image of disabled sport, faces a possible life sentence with a minimum of 25 years in prison if convicted. He could also be convicted of a lesser murder charge that has a 15-year mandatory sentence, or even of culpable homicide or negligent killing, which has a 5-year prison term in South Africa if a firearm is used.

South African police took six months to investigate the shooting before indicting Pistorius in August on charges of murder and illegal possession of ammunition, and included nearly 20 forensic experts in their list of over 100 state witnesses for the blockbuster trial. Pistorius' lawyers now have seven months to prepare his defense and draw up their own list of witnesses.

The U.S. experts could be used to counter the state's assertion that Pistorius committed premeditated murder because he knew there was someone in his bathroom in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine's Day and shot through a toilet cubicle door anyway. In the indictment served on Pistorius on Aug. 19 -- when his trial date was set -- prosecutors also said they have witnesses, most likely neighbors or security guards at the gated community where the Olympian lived, who will testify that they heard a woman scream before the sound of gunshots, insinuating that Pistorius must have known where the 29-year-old Steenkamp was before he fired four shots, hitting her three times and killing her.

Pistorius maintains he mistook the model and reality TV star for a dangerous intruder in his home and shot in fear and in self-defense.

Key forensic evidence will probably include the toilet door through which Pistorius shot, a cricket bat that Pistorius said he used to break down the door when he realized Steenkamp may have been in the cubicle, and records on the multiple cellphones found in his upscale villa in the eastern suburbs of Pretoria after the killing.

If Pistorius' team can prove that he did not have his prosthetic legs on when he shot -- and forensic experts may decipher that from the height of bullet holes in the door and the trajectory of the bullets -- it will help his defense against the premeditated murder charge and hinder the prosecution, which initially insisted he fired after taking the time to put on his artificial limbs.

There also has been persistent speculation that the cellphone records, as well as the witness accounts, may hold evidence of a fight between the couple on the night of the shooting and point toward a possible motive.

Among the 107 state witnesses listed by the prosecution in the indictment papers, 17 forensic, ballistics and crime scene specialists and a prominent South African criminal psychologist could be called to give evidence against Pistorius. South African police said before indicting Pistorius that their specialist team was "convinced that the accused has a charge to answer to after they worked tirelessly to ensure that the investigation was finalized."

The state investigating team is comprised of police detectives, forensic experts, ballistics experts, forensic psychologists and technology experts, the South African Police Service said in a statement from the very top, the national commissioner's office.

On Tuesday, spokeswoman Burgess said that Pistorius has done little else but focus on his murder trial since his last court appearance six weeks ago.

"Nothing much has changed," Burgess told The AP. "Oscar is preparing for the trial. That's the focus and that's the focus of everybody around him, too."

Tagged: Oscar Pistorius

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by


OLYMPIC VIDEOS

Olympian Van Dyken injured in ATV accident

Posted: Jun 09, 2014
America's Pregame provides an update on the condition of former Olympic swimmer ...

Phelps clocks fastest qualifying time in return

Posted: Apr 24, 2014
Michael Phelps clocks the fastest qualifying time in 100-meter butterfly at the ...

Clark claims 7th US Open halfpipe crown

Posted: Mar 09, 2014
Watch Kelly Clark land the first-ever cab 1080 en route to claiming her 7th win ...

Gold wins US Open halfpipe

Posted: Mar 09, 2014
Watch Taylor Gold's US Open-clinching run in the halfpipe, featuring an epic Fro...

Blind skier prepares for 2014 Paralympic Games

Posted: Mar 07, 2014
Blind skier Staci Mannella pushes the limits as she prepares for the 2014 Paraly...

Fox Sports Store

MORE THAN SPORTS on MSN