Oscar Pistorius defence rests case, date set for final arguments

Written by AFP | Pretoria, South Africa | Updated: Jul 9 2014, 01:55am hrs
Lawyers defending Oscar Pistorius on charges of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp rested their case today, heralding the final stages of the high-profile trial that has gripped South Africa for months.

Advocate Barry Roux said the star sprinter's defence team had called its last witness, allowing the court to set a date of August 7-8 for closing arguments.

The prosecution opted not to reopen its case, an indication of their confidence after a gruelling five-month trial that saw 27-year-old Paralympian weeping, vomiting and at times completely unable to compose himself as he tried to explain how Steenkamp's death was a tragic accident.

"This matter then is postponed until the 7th of August 2014 at 9:30," Judge Thokozile Masipa said.

Legal teams from both sides will submit their written arguments to Masipa beforehand -- the prosecution on July 30 and the defence on August 4.

The veteran judge warned that the written arguments must not be made public before oral arguments begin at the North Gauteng High Court.

A leak would be a "disservice to justice, and that person who does it is a thief," Masipa said.

The trial, which began on March 3, has garnered worldwide public attention, including a dedicated 24-hour trial channel and countless newspaper column inches.

Nearly 40 witnesses ranging from a jilted ex-girlfriend of Pistorius to a forensic geologist testified, creating a hefty record with thousands of pages.

Such was the intensity of the public gaze that some witnesses, including Pistorius, refused to testify in front of the cameras, while according to Roux, some refused to testify at all.

During 39 days of court proceedings the world looked on as Pistorius -- who rose to international fame when he competed alongside able-bodied runners at the 2012 London Olympics -- appeared in the dock, always supported by his well-heeled extended family and comforted by his younger sister Aimee, who sat behind him in the first row of the public gallery.

"This is the night I lost the person I most cared about. I don't know how people don't understand that," said Pistorius, sobbing uncontrollably, on the witness stand.

Legal analysts watching the case say the runner, once revered for his triumph over disability, did damage to his case by appearing to offer two different defences.