Apr 7, 2014, 10:08 AM EDT
Oscar Pistorius took the stand for the first time on the 17th day of his murder trial, immediately apologizing to the family of Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend he fatally shot on Valentine’s Day 2013.
Pistorius directed his opening comments on Monday toward the Steenkamp family that was in attendance in the Pretoria courtroom, including Reeva’s mother, June.
“I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to Mr. and Mrs. Steenkamp, to Reeva’s family, to those of you who knew her who are here today,” Pistorius said, standing, his voice breaking, before being interrupted by the judge to speak louder. “I’d like to apologize and say that there hasn’t been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven’t thought about your family. I wake up every morning, and you’re the first people I think of, the first people I pray for. I can’t imagine the pain and the sorrow and the emptiness that I’ve caused you and your family. I was simply trying to protect Reeva. 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 will ever suffice.”
Pistorius, the first double amputee to run in the Olympics in 2012, said he thought Steenkamp was an intruder locked in his bathroom when he shot four times through a locked door, hitting and killing her inside. The prosecution claims Pistorius killed Steenkamp after an argument.
He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder. If not found guilty of premeditated murder, he could be convicted of culpable homicide, South Africa’s version of manslaughter for negligent killing.
Pistorius testified Monday that he never wants to handle a firearm again, or be near one. He said a security guard stands outside his door nightly, that he has lost weight and has nightmares. One night, he sought refuge inside a cupboard and called his sister, Aimee, to sit with him.
“I’m scared to sleep, for several reasons,” Pistorius said. “I have terrible memories about things that happened that night. I wake up and smell the blood. I wake up to being terrified. When I hear a noise, I wake up in a complete state of terror to a point that I’d rather not fall asleep.”
Pistorius was on the stand for about 90 minutes with a lunch break in between. Most of it was spent detailing his upbringing after being born without fibulas and having both legs amputated, his rise in track and field and his history of witnessing crime in South Africa.
“I think everybody in South Africa’s been exposed to crime at some point,” he said, noting house break-ins, carjackings and being shot at while driving on a highway.
Pistorius said he’s never taken performance-enhancing drugs but that he would drink alcohol, sometimes excessively, in the offseason.
Pistorius elected not to be shown on live streams broadcast globally, but his emotion was clear when he spoke of his mother, who died suddenly when he was 15, and of Steenkamp.
He said he did not sleep the previous night, as he was anticipated to take the stand Monday.
“I’m just tired,” Pistorius said in his final comments before his lead attorney asked for and was granted an early adjournment for the day. “It’s a lot of things, obviously, going through my mind. The weight of this is extremely overbearing, so I think it’s just a lot to think about.”
Pistorius wept after the judge left for the day and was comforted by family members, according to reports from court.
The trial is expected to resume, with Pistorius on the stand, at 3:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday.
Here’s Pistorius taking the stand and emotionally apologizing to the Steenkamp family:
Here’s Pistorius talking about his state of mind after not sleeping Sunday night:
Jul 29, 2015, 1:53 PM EDT
It would be tougher for Wambach to make the Rio Olympic team than the 2015 World Cup team.
Jul 29, 2015, 12:19 PM EDT
Rehm has the best long jump by a German this year, but he may have a competitive advantage.
Jul 29, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT
“If you are in the world’s top 50, you should be able to play in the Olympics.”
Jul 29, 2015, 11:02 AM EDT
“I gave up following [Boston 2024] because it was pretty confusing.”
Jul 29, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
The USOC has until Sept. 15 to submit a bid.
Jul 29, 2015, 10:53 AM EDT
Craig wants $5.7 million total for all the whole collection.
Jul 29, 2015, 10:28 AM EDT
Its Olympic qualifying tournament is in less than two months.
Jul 29, 2015, 8:59 AM EDT
Watch Kim play badminton with Michelle Kwan.
Jul 29, 2015, 8:59 AM EDT
Miller said June 15 he could ski a partial 2015-16 season, and a report last week cited Miller saying he would take at least one year off.
Jul 28, 2015, 2:05 PM EDT
One city’s mayor is open to discussions.
Jul 28, 2015, 11:54 AM EDT
Horton impressively scaled the warped wall, which is about three times his height.
Jul 28, 2015, 11:17 AM EDT
The British Olympic heptathlon champion will compete at a global championship for the first time since the London Games.
Jul 28, 2015, 9:14 AM EDT
A South Sudanese marathon runner competed under a different flag at London 2012.
Jul 28, 2015, 7:09 AM EDT
Her 17-year-old teammate missed out, though, at the World Championships.
Jul 27, 2015, 11:59 PM EDT
An injury to Dalhausser spelled doom to their partnership.
Jul 27, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT
The 2024 bid race is down to four cities.
Jul 27, 2015, 5:18 PM EDT
The three-time Olympic champion hasn’t played since dislocating a shoulder July 10.
Jul 27, 2015, 4:36 PM EDT
Steve Guerdat’s provisional ban was announced last Tuesday.
Jul 27, 2015, 1:59 PM EDT
Hernandez’s history with BMX dates to the womb.
Jul 27, 2015, 11:02 AM EDT
Public support in Boston and Massachusetts has been less than 50 percent for months.
- Abby Wambach ‘planning on playing’ in Rio, ‘still need time to decide’ 1
- Los Angeles talks with USOC, San Francisco about 2024 Olympic bid, reports say 0
- Jim Craig wants to sell ‘Miracle on Ice’ memorabilia, gold medal 1
- Phil Dalhausser, Sean Rosenthal split 0
- Boston ends bid for 2024 Olympics; USOC wants another city 5
- Boston mayor: Olympic bid won’t go forward if forced to sign contract today 3
- Neymar: I told Barcelona I want to play in Rio Olympics 1
- Emotional Bode Miller medals in race that mattered most (61)
- Russian women kissing after relay victory at World Championships causes stir (60)
- IOC drops wrestling from 2020 Olympics (47)
- South Korea filing official complaint over Yuna Kim’s Olympic silver (39)
- Zola Budd, 47, dominates college runners in 5K (33)