PRETORIA , September 9- The Oscar Pistorius trial, which live television broadcasts have turned into a blend of international soap-opera and tragic TV reality show, will finally reach judgement day this week.
Viewers around the world will learn whether the star South African sprinter known as the “Blade Runner” is guilty or not guilty of murdering his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013.
The judge will begin delivering her verdict on Thursday, six months after the celebrity athlete first wept and vomited when the court heard that Steenkamp’s head had “exploded” like a watermelon under the impact of a hollow-point bullet.
At its heart, the trial is simple.
Pistorius killed the blonde law graduate when he fired four shots through a locked toilet door in his upmarket Pretoria home after screaming “Get the fuck out of my house!”
The double-amputee athlete doesn’t deny this. The only question is why he did it.
He says he thought he was shooting at an intruder and that Steenkamp was safely in bed.
The prosecution says he killed her in a fit of rage after an argument.
The personality of the Paralympian gold medallist, who won worldwide fame when he competed on his prosthetic ‘blades’ against able-bodied runners at the London Olympics, was a focus of the trial.
Prosecutors described him as an egotistical liar obsessed with guns, fast cars and beautiful women, who was not prepared to take responsibility for his actions.
Defence lawyers said there are “two Oscars” — a world-class athlete and a highly vulnerable individual with a serious disability who acted out of fear, not anger, when he fired the fatal shots.
After testimony from almost 40 witnesses, including neighbours who said they had heard screams and shots and defence experts who said this was impossible, the cast reassembles with Judge Thokozile Masipa taking a central role.
While Pistorius is doomed as always to play the star of a show he would rather not be in, prosecutor Gerrie “Pitbull” Nel and defence lawyer Barry “I put it to you” Roux have become co-stars with their own following.
And behind Pistorius in the public gallery, as always, will be his supportive sister — and the implacable mother of the 29-year-old woman he killed.
As in the famed live television trial of US football hero OJ Simpson, who was accused of murdering his wife 20 years ago, most viewers seem to have already decided on Pistorius’s guilt or innocence.
But on Thursday Judge Masipa will announce the only opinion that counts — her own.
Unlike the Simpson trial, in which he was controversially acquitted by a jury, Masipa is assisted only by two assessors.
If she decides Pistorius deliberately murdered Steenkamp, he could face a life sentence, which in South Africa means 25 years in jail.
But even if that is her verdict, it is not the end of the case. There will be arguments before sentence is handed down and, most likely, an appeal to a higher court.
If Pistorius is acquitted of murder he can still be convicted on an alternative charge of culpable homicide, which could also carry a prison sentence.
Whatever happens, his glittering sporting career is likely to be over. Once a poster boy for disabled sport, Pistorius has been stripped of lucrative endorsement deals by global brands and has withdrawn from all competition.