February 23, 2013

Oscar Pistorius gets bail as murder trial looms

But the Chief Magistrate, who agreed to bail with harsh restrictions, expressed his own doubts about Pistorius' story.

By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA and JON GAMBRELL The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Photographers take photos of Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius as he stands in the dock during his bail hearing at the magistrates court in Pretoria, South Africa, Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. The fourth and likely final day of Oscar Pistorius' bail hearing opened on Friday, with the magistrate then to rule if the double-amputee athlete can be freed before trial or if he has to remain in custody over the shooting death of his girlfriend. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

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While Nair leveled harsh criticism at Botha for "errors" and "blunders," he said one man does not represent an investigation and that the state could not be expected to put all "the pieces of the puzzle" together in such a short time.

The prosecution accepted the judge's decision without protest. "We're still confident in our case," prosecution spokesman Medupe Simasiku said.

Pistorius faced the sternest bail requirements in South Africa because of the seriousness of the charge, which carries a life sentence if convicted. His defense attorneys had to prove that he would not flee the country, would not interfere with witnesses or the case, and his release would not cause public unrest.

Nair questioned whether Pistorius would be a flight risk when he stood to lose a fortune in cash, cars, property and other assets. Nair also said that while it had been shown that Pistorius had aggressive tendencies, he did not have a prior record of offenses for violent acts.

Anticipating the shape of the state's case at trial, he said he had serious questions about Pistorius' account: Why didn't he try to locate his girlfriend if he feared an intruder was in the house? Why didn't he try to determine who was in the bathroom before opening fire? And why did he venture into perceived "danger" in the bathroom when he could have taken other steps to ensure his safety?

"There are improbabilities which need to be explored," Nair said, adding that Pistorius could clarify these matters by testifying under oath at trial.

Sharon Steenkamp, Reeva's cousin, said the model's family would not be watching the bail decision and had not been following the hearing.

"It doesn't make any difference to the fact that we are without Reeva," she said.

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