Olympic and Paralympic track superstar Oscar Pistorius took the stand as a witness in his own defense on Monday, April 7 in the trial for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius shot Steenkamp, his 29-year-old girlfriend, four times in his bathroom on Valentine’s Day last year.
Pistorius apologized to Steenkamp’s family while stifling sobs. He described himself as “traumatized,” according to CBS News.
“I was simply trying to protect Reeva,” he explained during his testimony. “I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved.”
The question is no longer whether or not Pistorius, 27, killed his girlfriend. The question is whether it was a matter of self-defense or intentional murder. Pistorius claims he shot Steenkamp assuming that she was an intruder in his Pretoria, South Africa home. The prosecution in the trial says that Pistorius murdered his girlfriend after a heated argument.
Stephen Tuscon, criminal barrister and law professor at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa, explained the nature of the trial.
“In this case, the criminal conduct, the act itself, is freely admitted. The only issue for the court is his state of mind and the most direct evidence that is his own testimony.”
What Pistorius reveals about the circumstances surrounding Steenkamp’s murder will be crucial, as the validity of many of his statements have already been called into question, according to The Telegraph.
Pistorius stated that he believed his girlfriend was still in bed when he shot who he believed to be an intruder through the bathroom door. The testimony from a ballistics expert suggests otherwise. Capt. Christian Magena says the bullet that hit Steenkamp’s head was likely to have killed her instantly and hit her last, according to the International Business Times.
Pistorius also claimed that he and Steenkamp were in his bedroom by 10 p.m., but evidence from the autopsy performed by pathologist Gert Saayman reveals that Steenkamp most likely had her last meal around 1 a.m., and that her iPhone was used long after when Pistorius stated they went to bed. Witness Michelle Burger, Pistorius’ neighbor, told the court that after she heard Steenkamp yelling, shots were fired.
In the previous weeks of the trial, Pistorius cried and even vomited as the details of Steenkamp’s death were illustrated. There is much evidence that does not work in Pistorius’ favor, such as his questionable Internet search history and text messages. A specific text from Steenkamp to Pistorius was read aloud, saying: “I’m scared of u sometimes and how u snap at me.” The defense responded by reading aloud affectionate text messages between the couple.
Pistorius testified on day 17 of the trial, providing the first testimony for his defense. If convicted of premeditated murder, he faces 25 years to life in prison.
Editor’s Note: Information from The Telegraph, The International Business Times, CBC News and CBS News was used in this report.