Former Olympian Oscar Pistorius appeared in a Pretoria, South Africa, court on Tuesday. The court date was a bail hearing, and prosecutor Gerrie Nel made it quite clear what they would pursue in the case: Pistorius’ actions on Valentine's Day -- when he allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp -- amounted to premeditated murder.
Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair agreed with the prosecution, ruling that for the purposes of the bail hearing the charge against Pistorius was premeditated murder. The judge's ruling will make it difficult for Pistorius to be granted bail. In South Africa, those charged with a category six offense -- the most serious category, and that in which premeditated murder would fit -- face harsh requirements to justify why they should be granted bail.
Given that, Pistorius could face months in jail prior to any trial. If convicted of premeditated murder, the track athlete could face a sentence of life in prison.
Although the hearing was scheduled to discuss possible bail for Pistorius, both the prosecution and defense teams laid out their arguments. Pistorius' attorney, Barry Roux, read an affidavit from his client. In it, the double amputee insisted that the shooting was an accident.
The affidavit confirmed at least some of the theories that developed over the weekend. When he shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp, she was hiding in the bathroom, and in his statement, Pistorius said that because he did not have his carbon-fiber prosthetic legs on, he felt vulnerable, which is when he pumped bullets through the locked bathroom door.
In the sworn statement, Pistorius said he then realized with horror that his girlfriend, model and reality TV star Reeva Steenkamp was not in the bed they shared. "It filled me with horror and fear," the statement said. At that point, he put on his prosthetic legs, tried to kick down the door, but finally resorted to using a cricket bat -- which emerged as evidence over the weekened -- only to find Steenkamp shot inside the bathroom. He said he carried her downstairs, but "She died in my arms."
Pistorius has claimed that he somehow thought Steenkamp was an intruder, but prosecutors say the couple quarreled before the incident. Roux argued that the state had no evidence of a quarrel.
Even if there was an accident, Nel argued, the incident would still amount to premeditated murder, as Pistorius shot through the door into a tiny room, measuring no more than 16 square feet in area. A burglar could not escape, Nel said, meaning that shooting in that manner was only to kill, not self-defense. Nel said:
She couldn't go anywhere. You can run nowhere. It must have been horrific.
Ironically, at the same time that Pistorius was undergoing a grueling courtroom appearance, Steenkamp's body was being cremated at a memorial service in her home town of Port Elizabeth.
Oscar Pistorius was nicknamed "Blade Runner" because of his dual carbon-fiber prosthetics. He was born with a condition known as fibular hemimelia (congenital absence of the fibula) in both legs. When he was 11 months old, his legs were amputated halfway between his knees and ankles.
At the 2012 Summer Olympics on Aug. 4, 2012, Pistorius became the first amputee runner to compete at an Olympic Games. In the first heat of the 400m race, he finished second place with a time of 45.44 seconds (which had been his best time of the season at that point), advancing to the semifinals which were held on Aug. 5, 2012.
He ran in the second semifinal, where he finished eighth, which was last, with a time of 46.54 seconds.