Oscar Pistorius Faces Another Court Hearing

Renee Montagne gets an update from freelance radio reporter Jean-Jacques Cornish on the pre-trial hearings for South African Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius. He is charged with murdering his supermodel girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne, with Steve Inskeep.

Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius is back in a South African courtroom today, in a bail hearing that has been sounding a lot like the trial itself. Both sides are presenting their versions of how it came to be that Pistorius killed his girlfriend. He admits he pumped four bullets through a bathroom door in the early morning hours of Valentine's Day. But he says he thought an intruder was behind that door and the death of Reeva Steenkamp was a horrible accident, not premeditated murder.

Joining us for more on today's developments is journalist Jean-Jacques Cornish, who is covering the proceedings in Pretoria. Good morning.

JEAN-JACQUES CORNISH: Good morning to you.

MONTAGNE: Six months ago, Pistorius was a global hero - last summer, a double amputee sprinting to Paralympic victory on carbon fiber blades. Today, prosecutors are say he should be locked behind bars while this case proceeds. Why?

CORNISH: Well, the fact is, this is the best known South African - most recognized South African, possibly, next to Nelson Mandela; a national hero for what he's done as a Paralympic and as a para-athlete. The fact is, here now, the shooting of his girlfriend - beautiful, model girlfriend on Valentine's Day has raised the whole specter of violence against females, against women - which is a real problem in South Africa; and the issue of gun ownership which, of course, you have in your country, too. Those two issues have been highlighted by this.

But essentially, Oscar Pistorius maintaining that he shot Reeva Steenkamp because he believed there was an intruder in his home. He has been a victim of crime. He has been - faced death threats. He yelled at her, "call the police"; pumped the shots into the bathroom from where he heard the noise...

MONTAGNE: Right. Right. But listen, just let - we, you know, we've been hearing all of that. But let me just say very quickly: Why is the prosecution saying he can't be released on bail?

CORNISH: Well, because they believe that this was a premeditated case of murder. They say they will present evidence that shows he actually planned to kill Reeva Steenkamp. Now, the to-ing and fro-ing - and as you said in your introduction, it sounds very much like the trial itself. We do not have a jury system here. The magistrate hearing all of this evidence has to weigh up and decide whether or not he can be allowed out. He's being charged with premeditated murder, which is the most serious charge on our Criminal Procedure Act. And the evidence is absolutely amazing. We've got his defense now saying, well, this is - Reeva sitting behind a bathroom door, it's possible that she locked that door when she heard him scream - because the prosecution is trying to indicate that she'd locked herself in the bathroom to save herself from Oscar...

MONTAGNE: Right.

CORNISH: ...and because...

MONTAGNE: Jean-Jacques...

CORNISH: ...because they were in the midst of an argument.

MONTAGNE: We only just have a few seconds, here. Let me just ask you quickly. At this point in time, each side has presented its version of events, and they sound like two potentially believable storylines of the same story.

CORNISH: Absolutely. And again, it sounds like the trial. I wouldn't want the magistrate's job of weighing them up and deciding whether Oscar will be allowed to have bail, for what is going to be an extremely long trial. And that might be months in the offing.

MONTAGNE: OK, thank you very much. Journalist Jean-Jacques Cornish, reporting from Pretoria.

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