Pistorius lawyer challenges investigators' competence

1:50 PM, Mar 12, 2014   |    comments
Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on March 11.
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(USA TODAY) The defense lawyer for double-amputee Oscar Pistorius was on the offensive Wednesday, challenging the competence of the investigation that landed the South African Olympic hero in a Pretoria courtoom charged with murder.

A forensic investigator testified that the evidence indicated Pistorius was not wearing his leg prostheses when he fired four shots through a bathroom door and smashed it in with the bat on Valentine's Day 2013. But Pistorius' lawyer Barry Roux pointed out that that weeks ago prosecutors had claimed Pistorius had donned his prosthetic legs before the tragedy, South Africa's Times Livereported.

Roux argued that the bat marks on the door are consistent with Pistorius' claim that he donned his prosthetic legs after firing the shots, then bashed down the door. The investigator, Lt. Col Johannes Vermeulen, testified that the evidence did not support the claim.

Vermeulen also admitted under cross examination that between the time of the tragedy and April 30, when Vermeulen performed his tests, a new shoe print had appeared on the door, Times Live reported.

Roux also claimed that the door might have been kept in a policeman's office and not in evidence storage, and that missing fragments from the door weren't examined.

Pistorius is charged with premeditated murder in the fatal shooting of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. Prosecutors depict Pistorius as a temperamental, jealous egomaniac who intentionally killed Steenkamp.

Pistorius, who has frequently wept and once vomited during the trial that began last week, has claimed Steenkamp's death was a tragic accident. He has said he was terrified when he opened fire, thinking an intruder was hiding in the bathroom of his home.

He claims he then put on his prostheses and tried to kick down the locked toilet door, battering it with a cricket bat after realizing what he had done.

Steenkamp, 29, was shot three times and died at the scene.

Pistorius became a global superstar after competing in 400-meter races at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London with specially designed prosthetic legs.

The door has always been viewed as crucial evidence in the case, and was removed from Pistorius' home in the hours after he shot Steenkamp. It was kept by police but also taken back to Pistorius' Pretoria villa with their permission last year so that forensic experts working for the Olympian could do their own work on it.

Darren Fresco, a one-time friend of Pistorius, also completed testifying Wednesday. Fresco earlier testified that he was with Pistorius on two occasions when he shot guns in public in the months before he killed Steenkamp.

Fresco said Pistorius fired without warning out of the sunroof of a moving car in September 2012 and then shot a gun by mistake under a table at a busy Johannesburg restaurant in January 2013 - around a month before he killed Steenkamp. Defense lawyer Barry Roux said Pisotrius denies the sunroof incident.

Contributing: Associated Press

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