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Court prepares to prolong Oscar Pistorius trial

Published Mar 13, 2014, 8:20 pm IST
Updated Apr 8, 2019, 5:31 pm IST
The chief defense lawyer pointed out alleged missteps by police in investigation of the athlete's killing of his girlfriend.
Photo- AP
 Photo- AP
PretoriaPreparations have been made to allow Oscar Pistorius's murder trial to sit two weeks longer than planned, the prosecution said on Thursday, as the planned March 20 end date looks increasingly unrealistic.
Assistant prosecutor Andrea Johnson said they had been informed the court can sit until April 4, if the case has not concluded before then.
Around a dozen witnesses for the prosecution have so far been called, with the case coming to the end of its second of three weeks.
Still more state witnesses are expected to testify, before the defence gets to call its own witnesses -- including star athlete Pistorius himself, who denies intentionally killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year.
The two sides then have to wrap up their arguments.
Given the current pace of proceedings, that is unlikely to happen in the five days remaining.
If the trial continues beyond April 4 judge Thokozile Masipa will have to reconvene sometime after April 11 because of a scheduled holiday. Even if the trial concludes by April 4, a ruling and any sentencing would likely come later.
Meanwhile a photograph of Oscar Pistorius' blood-stained prosthetic legs was used by his chief defense lawyer on Thursday to attempt to show that the athlete was wearing them, as he says, when he broke down a toilet door with a cricket bat to get to the girlfriend he fatally shot.
The image, showing the prosthetic limbs with white socks and stained with Reeva Steenkamp's blood up to the knee, was displayed by lawyer Barry Roux on a TV monitor at Pistorius' murder trial. Roux was trying to reinforce the Olympian's story that he shot the model by mistake on Valentine's Day last year and then desperately broke through a locked toilet door to help her.
The prosecution has attempted to cast doubt on parts of Pistorius' story, including, specifically, that he was wearing his legs when he broke through the toilet door with his bat.
Roux cross-examined a police forensics expert for a second day in the Pretoria courtroom, and also challenged Col. J.G. Vermeulen's analysis of a bullet-marked toilet door that was removed from the bathroom at Pistorius' home, where the double amputee killed the 29-year-old Steenkamp before dawn on Feb. 14, 2013. 
Pistorius has said he shot Steenkamp by mistake through the door, fearing there was a dangerous intruder in the house. The prosecution says he intentionally killed her after an argument.
Roux said fragments went missing from the door after police investigators took possession of it, and he questioned the reliability of police studies of the door.
The lawyer also noted that Vermeulen had not read Pistorius' version of events on the night of the killing until after he had completed his forensic study of the door, and was therefore leaning toward the prosecution's version of what happened.
The colonel's testimony has also focused on a cricket bat that Pistorius said he used to break through the toilet door to get to Steenkamp after, according to his account, realizing his mistake.
On Wednesday, Vermeulen knelt and swung the bat to show how he believed Pistorius struck the door from a low angle, indicating he was on his stumps at the time. Roux insisted Pistorius was wearing his prosthetic legs, saying the bat marks on the door were low because he swung with a bent back.
The back-and-forth over whether Pistorius, the first amputee to run at the Olympics, was on his prosthetic limbs or not is important because it could match parts of his story that he accidentally shot Steenkamp, or expose inconsistencies in it.