Oscar Pistorius‘ murder trial was twice stopped when the athlete broke down under a prosecutor’s questioning on Monday.
Pistorius, on trial after fatally shooting girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013, cried when recounting how he screamed an expletive at what he thought was an intruder inside his bathroom before shooting through a locked door. Judge Thokozile Masipa called an adjournment.
About 90 minutes later, Pistorius again caused a break when he began bawling during the following exchange with lead prosecutor Gerrie Nel.
“You fired at Reeva,” Nel said, before a rare Pistorius interruption on their fourth day of cross-examination.
“That’s not true,” Pistorius said insistently.
“Why are you getting emotional now?” Nel asked.
“I did not fire at Reeva,” Pistorius wailed.
Nel asked for an adjournment, citing Pistorius’ emotional state. A psychologist consoled Pistorius during the break, according to reports from the Pretoria courtroom.
Pistorius, the first double amputee to run in the Olympics in 2012, faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder. If not found guilty of premeditated murder, he could be convicted of culpable homicide, South Africa’s version of manslaughter for negligent killing.
The prosecutor Nel spent most of Monday continuing his assertion that Pistorius was lying and changing his defense from putative self defense to involuntary action (accidental shooting). Nel said Pistorius shot Steenkamp after an argument rather than thinking she was an intruder.
“The theme for the day is tailoring your evidence,” Nel said.
Pistorius again went through his actions shortly before, during and after shooting Steenkamp. He said he fired his pistol through the door after hearing a noise, believing the person inside was trying to open the door, but he didn’t see the door or door handle move.
“I heard the noise, and I didn’t have time to interpret, and I fired my firearm out of fear,” said Pistorius, who reportedly looks away from Nel, often to the judge, when answering.
Pistorius said he didn’t know why he stopped firing after four shots. He wasn’t aiming his gun because he didn’t intend to fire it. Nel said it must have been lucky, then, that his gun was pointed in the direction of the perceived intruder.
“Why would that be lucky, she lost her life,” Pistorius said.
Pistorius said that even if it turned out to be an intruder behind the door, he still would have considered the shooting an accident.
Late in the day, Judge Masipa interrupted Nel, who had been asking Pistorius about why Steenkamp was standing behind the door when he shot. Pistorius said he didn’t know why. Masipa thought Nel was unnecessarily repeating the question to which Pistorius did not have an answer.
“It’s not true,” Nel said. “He knows. He’s hiding it.
“He knows that he shot her while she was talking. … He must tell us because there’s no other version for it.”
The trial is scheduled to resume at 3:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday with more cross-examining from Nel.