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In Oscar Pistorius Trial, All Eyes Turn To A Battered Door


In Pretoria, South Africa today, the trial of Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius turned its attention to a door. As Robyn Dixon of The Los Angeles Times writes: It was a broken, bullet-pierced bathroom door, the one Pistorius shot through when he killed his girlfriend on Valentine's Day last year.

The trial of the man known as Blade Runner, for his prosthetic limbs, has been filled with emotional moments and graphic descriptions of how Reeva Steenkamp died. And today, that door was introduced as evidence. Robyn Dixon has been covering the trial since it began last week and she joins me now. And Robyn, what's the significance of this door to the case?

ROBYN DIXON: I think this door is very significant to the case because this is the door through which Oscar Pistorius fired when he killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. It had four bullet holes, in fact, in it and a crack down the side, a broken fragment next to the handle. That's the place where Oscar Pistorius repeatedly hit with his cricket bat to try and break into the toilet cubicle.

The prosecutor has contended that, in fact, Oscar Pistorius was on his stumps and not wearing his prosthetic legs when he hit the door with the cricket bat. Pistorius says the opposite. He was on his legs and if the prosecutor can show that he was lying about that, then it casts serious doubt on his story because it's such a central part of the evidence.

BLOCK: Well, let's talk about the defense version of what happened that night, which is that Oscar Pistorius claims he thought there was a burglar in the bathroom and shot into the bathroom not knowing that his girlfriend was there.

DIXON: Yes. He claims that he was woken by the sound of a bathroom window. He didn't realize that it was his girlfriend in the bathroom and that he ran in there, opened fire and killed her. The defense has got a very particular timeline and they are saying that what happened was that the gunshots that that neighbors and witnesses have reported hearing were, in fact, the sounds of Pistorius trying to break down that door.

And that the woman's scream that neighbors are also reporting as actually Oscar, himself, screaming and not Reeva Steenkamp as she feared for her life.

BLOCK: What can you tell us about testimony from friends of Oscar Pistorius who testified about his love of guns and previous incidents of shootings?

DIXON: Well, I think we're getting a very different picture of Pistorius from the very carefully manicured image that we had of him before the 2012 London Olympics. You know, we're hearing about a young man who was very quick to rage, according to his ex-girlfriend, who was liable to scream. He loved guns. He carried a pistol with him at all times. He kept it at his side at night when he slept.

He was never without it. He was quite fascinated with weapons according to another friend and he twice discharged a weapon in a public place. Once through the sun roof of a car when he was particularly angry because a policeman had handled his weapon and ejected a bullet from it.

BLOCK: Well, all of this is being heard not by a jury, there are not jury trials in South Africa, as I understand. This is being heard by judge along with two assessors. Is there any indication from anything that the judge has said or done in court that indicates how she is considering this case?

DIXON: I don't think we've had any indication as to whether or not she is considering acquitting Oscar Pistorius. It is fairly early on in the case. There are 100 witnesses on the list. So far we've only had a dozen and this trial is expected to last until at least the middle of next month. So we actually do have a long way to go yet.

BLOCK: I've been talking with reporter Robyn Dixon. She's covering the Oscar Pistorius trial for The Los Angeles Times. Robyn, thanks so much.

DIXON: Thank you, Melissa.


You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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