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Week 2 Of Pistorius Trial Gruesome, Disturbing


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden. Week 2 of the Oscar Pistorius trial in South Africa has come to a close. Pistorius, the Paralympic champion, known around the world as the Blade Runner is on trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year. Here to give us a recap of this week's proceedings is David Smith. Smith has been following the case for The Guardian Newspaper and joins from his home in Johannesburg. David Smith, thank you for being with us.

DAVID SMITH: Thank you.

LYDEN: So, this has been a big week in this trial; lots of evidence and testimony had quite an effect on Pistorius as well as Steenkamp supporters. Remind us what was shared. And we should say it gets rather disturbing.

SMITH: Yeah. In the first week of the trial, Oscar Pistorius remained quite composed. But during the week just gone, he finally lost his composure. What really got to him was a very detailed, graphic description of the bullet wounds on his dead girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. And it was really the cold, clinical, scientific language that seemed to push him over the edge. Pistorius' head bowed and then eventually as we were sitting in court, there was the shocking sound of him retching and vomiting. There was a repeat of that a few days later when a photograph of his dead girlfriend flashed up on a screen inadvertently for a moment. Some very raw emotions in court with obviously family members or supporters of the deceased also looking on and sometimes also breaking down.

LYDEN: There is also this week the police and the way that they handled evidence from the crime scene, which has come under a lot of scrutiny. Tell us what some of the accusation leveled against the police have been.

SMITH: This is always going to be an issue because, sadly, the South African police have taken a lot of knocks to their credibility of the competence and brutality and corruption. This week, the defense probed the police very closely on their evidence. And on Friday, the police colonel, who was one of the first at the scene and arrested Pistorius, even not under cross-examination, he volunteered the fact that one of Pistorius luxury watches worth thousands of dollars had been stolen from Pistorius' bedroom a few hours after the incident. And there were also many claims that the police have contaminated evidence. One investigator picked up Pistorius' gun without putting on a glove first, and many questions over how perhaps the most crucial piece of evidence, the toilet door, was taken down and transported to a police station where it just lay in the colonel's office.

LYDEN: What has been the most striking thing to you about this trial since it began last week?

SMITH: It's very dramatic, theatrical almost, in like a sort of Hollywood courtroom drama to have the door with the bullet holes actually there, to have Pistorius reacting, sobbing, retching, but also that everything they're saying is being broadcast on live television. I think many South Africans are gaining an education about the way the judicial system works. Some find it crass and intrusive but others find it very refreshing. And I think the sort of the (unintelligible) and the positive and the negatives of South Africa is that the judiciary, the courts, the judges, the lawyers are coming out of it pretty well in terms of their (unintelligible) and their independence and their robustness that many African countries would envy. But the flip side is that the police and the detectives, I'm afraid, come out the opposition - as bungling and amateurish and, you know, really not up to the job.

LYDEN: David Smith is following this story for the Guardian newspaper and he joined us from Johannesburg. Thank you so very much for joining us.

SMITH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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