Oscar Pistorius Trial Delayed by Judge Due to Assessor's Illness

Friday, 28 Mar 2014 02:21 PM

By Nick Sanchez

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The trial of South African Paralympic gold medalist Oscar Pistorius was delayed Friday, postponed by the judge because one of her assessors was hospitalized. It was the day Pistorius was supposed to take the stand for the first time in the murder trial for his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

"One of my assessors is not well, so this court is not properly constituted. I suggest that we postpone this matter until the seventh of April," said Judge Thokozile Masipa during court, according to The Associated Press. 

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South Africa did away with the jury system in the 1960s, and the assessors — in this case Janet Henzen-Du Toit, who is ill, and Themba Mazibuko — help the judge reach a decision. Thus far, the assessors have not spoken publicly but have spoken directly to Masipa.

The buildup was a disappointment to Pistorius, 27, and the defense, who were ready to lay out their testimony after 15 days of prosecution-led testimony.

"He was all geared up," one of Pistorius' family members told The Guardian.

Originally scheduled for three weeks, the trial will likely last until mid-May.

Neither the prosecution nor the defense denies that Pistorius fired four gunshots through his bathroom door, killing his 29-year-old girlfriend Steenkamp on Valentine's Day of last year.

The trial hinges on whether the killing was premeditated or an accident.

Pistorius maintains that he awoke in the middle of the night, not wearing either of his prosthetic legs, when he heard a noise in the bathroom. He claims he thought Steenkamp was still in bed and that the person behind the locked bathroom door was an intruder.

The first witness to take the stand told a different version of Pistorius' story, however.

Michell Burger, who lives about 200 yards from Pistorius' house, said she heard a woman's "blood-curdling screams" before gunshots were fired, insinuating the couple was having a domestic dispute.

Also in question in the is the order of how the bullets hit Steenkamp's hip, arm, and head.

Additionally, Pistorius said the couple had gone to bed around 10 p.m. However, forensics reveal Steenkamp had likely had something to eat around 1 a.m.

"Whatever the court decides at the end of his trial, I will be ready to forgive him," said Steenkamp's mother, June, 67. "But first I want to force him to look at me, Reeva's mother, and see the pain and anguish he has inflicted on me. I feel I need that."

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