Oscar Pistorius Trial: Defense Grills Key State Witness With ‘Toilet Test’ To Prove Her Unreliable; Judge Warns Media Over Leaked Photo

  @suman09s.varandani@ibtimes.com on March 04 2014 7:08 AM
Oscar Pistorius
Oscar Pistorius pictured during the second day of the trial of the Olympic and Paralympic track star at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, March 4, 2014. Reuters/Antoine de Ras/Pool

Paralympian Oscar Pistorius' defense lawyer, who is representing the gold medalist in the murder trial of his girlfriend, proposed a “toilet-test” to portray the state’s first witness as unreliable.

On Tuesday, Pistorius' lawyer Barry Roux mounted a spirited defense by casting doubt on neighbor Michelle Burger's testimony that she recalled screams and gunshots on the night Reeva Steenkamp was killed, as he told the court in Pretoria that Burger could not have heard Pistorius’ girlfriend screaming from 177 meters away.

'My windows were open, we had no aircon...' Burger reportedly said, adding that there is no conflict between her statement on the day of the incident last February and her current testimony, and that her account of what happened has not changed.

Roux offered to take the witness to the house to show that screaming from inside a locked bathroom -- where Steenkamp was found dead -- could not be heard from such a distance. He reportedly spent hours hammering Burger with questions in an attempt to get her to vary from her statement.

Burger testified Monday that she had heard “bloodcurdling” female screams and then "heard four shots" on Feb. 14, 2013. Roux asked Burger if the "bang" sounds she heard could have been a cricket bat being used against a bathroom door instead of being the sound of gunshots, as she testified.

Another neighbor, Estelle van der Merwe, testified in court Tuesday that she had heard arguments and four noises that seemed to be like gunshots, and reportedly said: "It seemed like two people but I couldn't hear the other person's voice," adding: "I didn't know where it was coming from.”

The second day of the trial was interrupted Tuesday after eNCA, a local television channel, leaked a picture of Burger, who had asked that her image not be broadcast. Although the trial is being broadcast live, a previous court had ordered that witnesses must give their consent before being filmed. 

Trial Judge Thokozile Masipa ordered an investigation into the leak by eNCA and rebuked the media covering the high-profile murder case.

"I am warning the media, if you do not behave, you are not going to be treated with soft gloves by this court," Masipa, herself a former journalist, reportedly said when the court resumed.

Pistorius, 27, is on trial for murdering his girlfriend, Steenkamp, at his Pretoria home last year and has said that he mistook her for an intruder. Pistorius pleaded not guilty Monday to all four charges against him, which include weapons charges as well as the accusation of murder.

"This allegation is denied in the strongest terms," he reportedly said. "We were in a loving relationship."

According to reports, if Pistorius is found guilty, he may be charged with premeditated murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence of 25 years. He also could get five years for each gun indictment and 15 years for the firearms charge.

If he isn't convicted of premeditated murder, he may face charges for culpable homicide, a crime based on negligence, which could lead to 15 years of imprisonment.

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