PRETORIA, South Africa – A look at the Oscar Pistorius case after the double-amputee Olympian was indicted on a charge of premeditated murder Monday in girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp's killing:
Pistorius was indicted for premeditated murder in Steenkamp's killing and his trial will start on March 3 at a high court in the South African capital, Pretoria — just over a year after he fatally shot Steenkamp. The athlete also will face a charge relating to illegal possession of ammunition after prosecutors say .38-caliber ammunition was found in his home, which he didn't have proper licensing for. Pistorius shot Steenkamp with his licensed 9mm Parabellum pistol. The murder trial will run March 3-20 next year, the court said, and will be presided over by a judge, who will ultimately pronounce Pistorius innocent or guilty. There is no trial by jury in South Africa.
Pistorius faces a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years in prison if he is convicted of premeditated murder. There is no death penalty in South Africa. The 26-year-old also could be found guilty of a lesser charge of murder without premeditation, which has a 15-year sentence in South Africa. Prosecutors said he was guilty of murder even if he didn't know it was Steenkamp in the toilet because "he shot with the direct intention to kill a person."
Legal experts say a culpable homicide or negligent killing conviction is also still possible, which carries a five-year prison sentence when a firearm is used. Should he be convicted of premeditated murder, Pistorius will likely be older than 50 by the time he leaves prison.
Prosecutors submitted a list of 107 witnesses who they can potentially call at Pistorius' trial. The list includes residents and workers at the upscale gated complex in Pretoria where Pistorius lived and where Steenkamp was killed. The prosecution said Monday that some of those witnesses said they heard a woman scream, then silence, before the sound of gunshots, hinting at a possible argument between the couple before Pistorius fired four shots through a locked toilet stall door, hitting Steenkamp and killing her.
Pistorius said in an affidavit during his bail hearing that he killed Steenkamp accidentally, fearing she was a dangerous intruder.
Members of Pistorius' family, an ex-girlfriend and friends of Steenkamp were also named as possible state witnesses.
The prosecution said Steenkamp died just after 3 a.m. on Feb. 14 from "multiple gunshot wounds," according to the autopsy. The indictment papers said she was initially wounded before dying on the scene, confirming earlier reports that Steenkamp didn't die immediately. Pistorius said in his affidavit that Steenkamp died in his arms after he carried her downstairs to get help.
Marius du Toit, a defense lawyer and former state prosecutor in South Africa who is not involved in the case but has been following it, said a plea bargain was unlikely because the two sides were "so far apart." The state alleges Pistorius committed premeditated murder, while Pistorius denies murder in all forms.