Oscar Pistorius granted bail in murder case - KMOV.com

Oscar Pistorius granted bail in murder case

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By Brendan Marks By Brendan Marks

A judge has granted bail to Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee athlete who has been charged in the shooting death of his girlfriend.

In announcing his decision Friday on the fourth day of Pistorius' bail hearing, Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair said that the state had not provided enough evidence to convince him that the international athlete was a flight risk.

Pistorius is charged with one count of premeditated murder over the Feb. 14 killing of Reeva Steenkamp. He says he accidentally shot her, thinking she was a dangerous intruder inside his home, lurking in a toilet stall off his bedroom.

The magistrate set bail at 1,000,000 South African rand (approx. $112,800), Reuters reported. Pistorius was also ordered to stay away from his home and witnesses, is prohibited from drinking alcohol, and must turn in his passport and his firearms He must also report to the police station twice a week.

The prosecution vehemently opposed bail, calling the Olympian also known as the "Blade Runner" a flight risk.

Nair also said that the accused "does not show a propensity to commit violence," and that there was no evidence before him that Pistorius, if freed, would interfere in the state's witnesses.

In his nearly two-hour-long statement, in which the magistrate laid out both the defense version of events and the prosecution's, Nair also addressed the testimony of Lead investigator Hilton Botha, who was removed from the case Thursday following his bungled testimony for the prosecution. "Botha is not the state case," Nair said.

The magistrate also said that Pistorius' affidavit, in which he gave his detailed version of the events of the shooting in a sworn statement, had helped his application for bail in Pretoria Magistrate's Court. He compared it to other defendants' "flimsy" affidavits in which they merely deny the charges against them.

"That reaching out in the affidavit, the way that he did, placing it before the court," Nair said. "I come to the conclusion that the accused has made a case to be released on bail."

Pistorius' next court appearance was set for June 4.

Later, Reuters reported a car believed to be carrying Oscar Pistorius left the magistrates court. Several motorbikes commandeered by media organizations pursued the silver Land Rover with tinted windows through the streets of the capital.

In a statement read after the decision, Oscar's uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said, "Although we are obviously relieved that Oscar has been granted bail, this is still a very sad time for the family of Reeva and for us. We are grateful that the Magistrate recognized the validity and strength of our application. As the family, we are convinced that Oscar's version of what happened on that terrible night will prove to be true."

Pistorius' defense lawyer welcomed the bail ruling, saying it was "fair", while his coach said he had always believed in the runner "from day one."

A spokesman for the prosecution service said the team would now continue preparations for the next court date. He added that any criticisms the magistrate expressed regarding their charges and evidence against Pistorius did not mean they would "lose hope in this case."

For the first time some of Reeva Steenkamp's friends have come to the hearing, but her family and those closest to her have stayed away.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel called Pistorius' version that he shot Steenkamp accidentally improbable and argued that Pistorius did not have to have planned the killing for days in advance for it to be premediated.

"He planned it that night when she (Steenkamp) locked herself in (the toilet)," Nel said in response to a question from the magistrate on why Pistorius hadn't staged a break-in at his home to make his story look more believable. "The fact that we have only one survivor of that tragic night is difficult for the state."

Pistorius' defense lawyer, Barry Roux, brought up culpable homicide as a possible charge for the first time in the case when answering questions from the magistrate.

"He did not want to kill Reeva. He had no intent to kill Reeva," Roux said as Pistorius began weeping again, as he has done for much of his bail hearing.

Roux said it was impossible for Pistorius, as famous as he is and with his prostheses, to escape South Africa before trial.

"Let me tell you how difficult it is for this man to disappear from this world," Roux said.

Prosecutor Nel earlier countered that everyone, whether disabled or famous or otherwise different from the majority, should be treated equally under the law. Nel noted that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is famous but is now holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex-related charges.

Pistorius' longtime coach, Ampie Louw, had said before proceedings began that he is considering putting his runner back in training if he is granted bail to allow him to "get his mind kind of clear."

Louw said he realizes that the Olympic athlete might not be emotionally ready to give any thought to running.

"The change is that he is heartbroken, that is all," Louw said in the courtroom, surrounded by reporters and television cameras. "For me it is tough to see that. Not to be able to reach out and sit next to him and say, 'Sorry, man, it was a terrible accident.' But I cannot do it, I must just sit here in court and that's all.

"The sooner he can start working the better." said Louw, who was the person who convinced the double amputee to take up track as a teenager a decade ago.

As the hearing got underway today, Frik and Claudia Van Wyk -- both friends of the Pistorius family -- stood with a placard showing their support for Pistorius and for the family of Reeva Steenkamp.

"This is tragic what's happened to Reeva, tragic what's happened to him, so yes we are supporting both the families," Claudia Van Wyk said tearfully.

Pistorius has been held at a police station in Pretoria since last week, but suspects who are denied bail are typically held in a prison.

Roux argued on Thursday that the evidence backs Pistorius' statement that he shot through a toilet door at his home because he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder, killing her by accident.

"I think there will be a level of shock in this country if he is not released (on bail)," Roux said in court.

Opposing bail, Nel argued that Pistorius was too willing to shoot. The prosecution says Pistorius planned to kill his 29-year-old girlfriend, a model and budding reality TV star, after an argument in the early hours of Valentine's Day.

"The reason you fire four shots is to kill," Nel said.

Louw said he might put Pistorius, who overcame the amputation of his lower legs as a baby to compete at last year's London Olympics, back on a morning and afternoon training routine if he is freed, believing it might help him to be able to run track again.

"You must give him space," the coach said.

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