Oscar Pistorius took the stand for the first time Monday, sobbing occasionally, as his murder trial resumed.
The double-amputee, South African Olympian, is accused of murdering his girlfriend, model, Reeva Steenkamp, shooting her through a locked bathroom door, early Valentine’s morning in 2013.
Oscar lead off this first day of his defense with an apology to Steenkamp’s family before focusing more on his past and how the shooting has affected him.
Clearly struggling with his emotions, pausing between words that were either halting or muddled together, Pistorius stumbled as he attempted the apology. Oscar’s quivering voice was also very quiet, the courtroom audience seeming equally uneasy and anxious as the very awkward scene tried to unfold.
Meanwhile, Steenkamp’s mother stared ahead silently earnest while the judge sat with her arms folded, patiently listening to Pistorius before finally breaking the uncomfortable ice.
“Mr. Pistorius? I don’t like doing this to you,” said the judge. “But I can hardly hear you.”
“I… I beg your pardon, my lady,” said Oscar to the judge. “I’ll speak up.”
Pistorius proceeded into his apology, telling the Steenkamps that they are the first thing he thinks of each morning and saying, “I can’t imagine the pain and the emptiness and the sorrow I’ve caused you and your family.”
At this point, Oscar’s message shifted, however, from apology to a potential explanation, followed by an odd attempt to provide some comfort.
“I was simply trying to protect Reeva,” said Pistorius. “I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved. I’ve tried to put my words on paper many many times to write to you but no words would ever suffice.”
This was the first time Oscar Pistorius had spoken publicly about the actions he’d taken that resulted in Steenkamp’s violent death, reports CNN.
Monday was also the start for Pistorius’ defense, after three weeks of the prosecution presenting its case. According to the prosecution, Pistorius intentionally fired through the locked bathroom door while Steenkamp tried to protect herself behind. Pistorius claims it was a case of mistaken identity and he thought Reeva was an intruder.
Following the apology portion of his testimony, Oscar continued in a different direction. His words became more focused on the results the shooting has had on him, and not so much the effects it has had on the deceased Reeva and her forever wounded family.
According to Pistorius he is afraid to sleep, and requires medication both for sleeping and depression.
“I’m scared to sleep… I have terrible nightmares about things that happened that night where I wake up and I can smell, I can smell the blood and I wake up to being terrified… I wake up in a complete state of terror, to a point that I’d rather not sleep than fall asleep and wake up like that.”
The defense then lead Oscar into discussing his childhood, its difficult and tragic aspects, and highlighted the need for guns in Oscar’s upbringing. Pistorius’ mother, who passed away when he was 15, kept a gun with her at night due to their dangerous surroundings.
“She often got scared at night. We didn’t live in the best of areas,” said Pistorius. “There was a lot of crime. She would call the police, call us to her room and we would wait for the police to arrive.”
Pistorius also testified about other incidents from his past that have impacted him, including how he’d used his gun to save a taxi driver who was being assaulted, and a 2009 boat accident that injured his face and left him in an induced coma.
“I was a lot more vigilant of losing my life after that. I became quite fearful, I became quite withdrawn,” Oscar told the court.
Pistorius also said he never wants to touch a gun again. Though he used to own several, he no longer keeps any guns and relies on a security man outside his door for protection.
Fnally, Oscar’s lawyer asked that the day conclude early, Oscar Pistorius apparently exhausted.
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