Witnesses expected to testify about Oscar Pistorius' temper, use of guns in murder trial
JOHANNESBURG – Oscar Pistorius' character, his temper and his use of guns are expected to be examined in his murder trial for the killing of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, based on the prosecution's list of witnesses.
Members of Oscar Pistorius' family, an ex-girlfriend, some of his friends and neighbors, men connected to firearms clubs, a professional cage fighter, a boxer and a host of police specialists and experts are listed as prosecution witnesses for the double-amputee Olympian's murder trial next year.
The Associated Press takes a closer look at some of the 107 state witnesses after Pistorius was indicted on a charge of premeditated murder for the killing of Steenkamp. His trial is set to start on March 3, 2014.
FIRST ON THE SCENE
Pistorius said in an affidavit, his only testimony so far, that Johan Stander was the first person he phoned after he shot Steenkamp in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14. He asked Stander to call an ambulance. Stander, who Pistorius described as an administrator of the gated community where the athlete lived, arrived at the house as Pistorius carried a fatally wounded Steenkamp downstairs, according to Pistorius.
As the first person to talk to and to see Pistorius after the shooting, Stander's observations of the immediate aftermath may help a judge decide whether Pistorius had minutes earlier committed murder, as prosecutors say, or made a deadly mistake — the core of the trial.
NEIGHBORS, GUARDS & 'THE DOCTOR'
There are 18 people, including Stander, on the state witness list connected to the Silver Woods Estate where Pistorius lived.
A key part of the prosecutors' case is that they say some of the witnesses, likely neighbors or estate workers, heard a woman scream before the gunshots. The suggestion is not only of a fight between the couple, but also that Pistorius should have known where Steenkamp was by the scream before he shot.
Security guards and an unnamed doctor, who Pistorius said lived at Silver Woods and also arrived at his house soon after he shot Steenkamp, may testify. The prosecution says that Pistorius "walked into security guards" when he went downstairs carrying Steenkamp. The guards are not mentioned by Pistorius.
PISTORIUS' FAMILY & FRIENDS
Pistorius' uncle Arnold, brother Carl and sister Aimee are all named as prosecution witnesses. It's unclear when or if members of Pistorius' family arrived at his home in the hours following the shooting, but the prosecution said in an initial charge sheet that the runner "said to a friend/sister that he thought it was a burglar," claiming Pistorius talked to people close to him soon after he killed Steenkamp. Other friends of Pistorius are witnesses, including one who also lived at Silver Woods and a car dealer who says he introduced Pistorius and Steenkamp in 2012.
TOP COPS & EXPERTS
Nearly 50 police officers and experts could be called by the state at the trial, including 17 forensic, ballistics and crime scene specialists and a criminal psychologist. Also involved in the case are members of South Africa's Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, which deals with national priority crimes and shows how seriously the country's authorities are taking the case against its one-time sporting hero.
Hilton Botha, the police's former lead investigator who was dropped from the case and later left the force, will likely reappear as a state witness.
DRUGS & SUBSTANCES
A sports medicine specialist and the head of the South African sports doping laboratory are listed as possible witnesses and may deal with any substances being taken by Pistorius amid initial claims by investigators that they found testosterone in his bedroom. Prosecutors withdrew that claim and Pistorius' representatives identified the substance he was using as a legal herbal remedy called testis compositum. Police haven't yet said what substances they may have found in the Olympian's house or through tests on him.
Ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor apparently has stories to tell about Pistorius. She was in a car when he fired a gun through the sunroof in anger at being stopped by police at a road checkpoint, according to a South African television channel. Taylor's mother, Trish Taylor, reportedly posted on Facebook soon after the shooting: "I am so glad Sammy is safe and sound and out of the clutches of that man. There were a few occasions when things could have gone wrong with her and his gun during the time they dated."
The comments were later removed and the Taylors have declined to comment. Mother and daughter are both prosecution witnesses. Two other women Pistorius was once involved with also are listed.
The Taylors, a former professional soccer player and a boxer could testify to Pistorius' character and whether, as prosecutors may hint, he was prone to anger and possibly violence and was reckless with guns.
The former soccer player, Mark Batchelor, has said that a drunken Pistorius once threatened him. The boxer, Kevin Lerena, is believed to have been with Pistorius at a Johannesburg restaurant weeks before the shooting when the athlete shot a gun accidentally under a table. The naming of two men from firearms clubs Pistorius had connections to shows that prosecutors will examine his gun history.
Close friends of Steenkamp and an ex-boyfriend of the model also are named by the state as witnesses.
It's not certain what connections a Johannesburg-based cage fighter has to the case. Also intriguing is what testimony may come from Elizabeth de Jager of the South African Weather Service.