In day 13 of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial in South Africa‘s Pretoria Magistrate’s Court Wednesday, a law enforcement ballistics expert carefully laid out the arc of events in the paralympian’s Feb. 13, 2013 shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, and, in another boon for the defense, said he thought Pistorius didn’t have his prosthetic legs on at the time of the fatal shooting.
Police Capt. Christiaan Mangena said that Steenkamp was positioned toward the door while in a bathroom inside Pistorius’ bedroom, and took the first shot in her right hip before falling backward into a magazine holder in the room, and landing in a “seated or semi-seated position.
“I’m of the opinion that after this wound was inflicted,” he said, “she dropped immediately.”
The next two shots hit her in her right arm, left hand and head as she was trying to use her arms to cover her head, Mangena said.
One of the bullets seared through Steenkamp’s hand, and into her head, as she tried to protect herself, Mangena said. At one point the expert even got into the “defensive position” he said Steenkamp held in the final moments of her life.
“She ended up with her head on top of the toilet seat, and the lower part of her body on the rack,” the official testified.
While the expert was doing the physical demonstration, Pistorius — who has worn his emotions on his sleeve throughout the proceedings, even puking at one point — plugged his ears to avoid hearing the gory details.
Mangena said the hollow bullets fired from Pistorius’ 9 mm pistol were extra lethal, designed to cut “through the organs of a human being” with extreme precision.
Mangena told the court that when such a bullet “hits the target, it opens up, it creates six talons, and these talons are sharp.”
In an especially tragic twist, Steenkamp’s mother June was in the court Wednesday, often having to look away at the gory photographs presented as evidence.
Upon cross-examination, Pistorius’ bulldog attorney Barry Roux pointed out that some of Mangena’s conclusions contradicted previous evidence presented by the prosecution.
Roux — again stressing that police errors were flagrant and numerous in the investigation — led Mangena to concede that police might have “moved or kicked around” some of the cartridge cases from the shooting while they were assessing the scene of the incident; and that his opinion was that Pistorius’ claim he was on his stumps at the time of the killing was “most likely” true.
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As we previously reported, should Pistorius be convicted of premeditated murder, he could be sentenced up to life with a 25-year minimum sentence. If convicted of murder, he could face up to 15 years in custody.
With no jury trials in South Africa, Pistorius’ fate rests in the hands of presiding judge Thokozile Masipa. In South Africa, where Pistorius had been acknowledged as a sports superstar, the legal proceedings have been dubbed “the trial of the century,” the same moniker media pundits in the states referred to the O.J. Simpson trial as in the mid-90s.