Magistrate says Oscar Pistorius to be granted bail

Published February 22, 2013

| FoxNews.com

Oscar Pistorius has been granted bail and will be freed from custody pending his trial in the Valentine's Day shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair announced his decision Friday after four days of arguments from prosecution and defense in Pistorius' bail hearing, and after spending about one hour and 45 minutes announcing his decision. 

Nair said Pistorius' affidavit, in which he gave his version of the events of the shooting on morning of Feb. 14 in a sworn statement, had helped his application for bail in Pretoria Magistrate's Court. 

Pistorius' supporters shouted "Yes" when the magistrate made his ruling. Nair then ordered a court break before establishing terms of the bail. 

Nair set the bail at $113,000, with $11,300 in cash and proof that the rest is available. The magistrate said Pistorius must hand over his passports and also turn in any other guns that he owns. Pistorius also cannot leave the district of Pretoria without the permission of his probation officer, Nair said.

The double-amputee Olympian's next court appearance was set for June 4.

The magistrate also ruled that he could not return to his home, where the killing of Steenkamp took place.

After the decision was read, Kim Meyers, Steenkamp's roommate told Fox News she is "still very sad." 

"Justice will prevail," Meyers said. 

Pistorius is charged with one count of premeditated murder over the Feb. 14 killing of Steenkamp. He says the shooting was accidental because he thought there was a dangerous intruder inside his Pretoria, South Africa home. Prosecutors say he intended to kill Steencamp saying the shooting followed a loud argument between the two. 

Pistorius' hands trembled as he said "good morning, your worship" as the court session began in Pretoria Magistrate's Court, in South Africa's capital.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel began the hearing by calling the Olympian's account of the shooting "improbable," and "not true." Nel said that it is easy for Pistorius to give his version of events because he is still alive to give it.

"He planned it that night when she (Steenkamp) locked herself in (the toilet)," Nel said in response to a question from the magistrate on why Pistorius hadn't staged a break-in at his home to make his story look more believable. "The fact that we have only one survivor of that tragic night is difficult for the state."

However, Pistorius' defense lawyer Barry Roux hinted he may argue for a lesser charge, mentioning "culpable homicide" in his comments. The charge is two categories below premeditated murder.

"He did not want to kill Reeva. He had no intent to kill Reeva," Roux said as Pistorius began weeping again , as he has done for much of his bail hearing.

Roux tells Fox News he believes Pistorius' account is the probable scenario.

"I wouldn't have said it if I didn't think so," Roux said.

Roux said it was impossible for Pistorius, as famous as he is and with his prostheses, to escape South Africa before trial.

"Let me tell you how difficult it is for this man to disappear from this world," Roux said.

Prosecutor Nel earlier countered that everyone, whether disabled or famous or otherwise different from the majority, should be treated equally under the law. Nel noted that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is famous but is now holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex-related charges.

Although the prosecution has been arguing against bail being granted, some at the hearing expect Pistorius will receive bail due to rough prison conditions in South Africa, a possible long wait until the actual trial, and Pistorius not being a flight risk.

There is also a question of whether the judge will stick to the premeditated murder charge, with some believing Pistorius could get the lesser charge.

Others argue that with so much potentially damaging evidence still outstanding, the judge will not want to act prematurely in reducing the charge.

Pistorius' longtime coach Ampie Louw said before proceedings began that he is considering putting his runner back in training if he is granted bail to allow him to "get his mind kind of clear."

Louw said he realizes that the Olympic athlete might not be emotionally ready to give any thought to running.

"The change is that he is heartbroken, that is all," Louw said in the courtroom, surrounded by reporters and television cameras. "For me it is tough to see that. Not to be able to reach out and sit next to him and say `sorry, man, it was a terrible accident.' But I cannot do it, I must just sit here in court and that's all.

"The sooner he can start working the better." said Louw, who was the person who convinced the double amputee to take up track as a teenager a decade ago.

Pistorius faces the sternest bail conditions in South Africa because of the seriousness of the charge, meaning his defense lawyers have to prove there is an "exceptional" reason for him to be freed.

He has been held at a police station in Pretoria since last week, but suspects who are denied bail are typically held in a prison.

Roux argued on Thursday that the evidence backs up Pistorius' statement that he shot through a toilet door at his home because he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder, killing her by accident.

"I think there will be a level of shock in this country if he is not released (on bail)," Roux said in court.

Opposing bail, Nel argued Pistorius was too willing to shoot. The prosecution says Pistorius planned to kill his 29-year-old girlfriend, a model and budding reality TV star, after an argument in the early hours of Valentine's Day.

"The reason you fire four shots is to kill," Nel said.

Louw said he might put Pistorius - who overcame the amputation of his lower legs as a baby to compete at last year's London Olympics -- back on a morning and afternoon training routine if he is freed, believing it might help him to be able to run track again.

"You must give him space," the coach said.

Fox News' Greg Palkot and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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