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:
Sep 1, 2015, 5:11 PM EDT
Budapest, Hamburg, Paris and Rome previously announced bids.
Sep 1, 2015, 1:51 PM EDT
Walsh Jennings and April Ross will have little to no wiggle room in Olympic qualifying next year.
Sep 1, 2015, 12:36 PM EDT
She could become the second oldest Olympic singles player since the sport returned to the Games in 1988.
Sep 1, 2015, 8:58 AM EDT
A competition will be held to pick a new logo.
Aug 31, 2015, 4:20 PM EDT
Olympic champions came through and potential future Olympic stars broke out.
Aug 31, 2015, 2:47 PM EDT
One world record and many near marks on the track and in the field.
Aug 31, 2015, 12:09 PM EDT
Kidney failure, a Segway and goat blood.
Aug 30, 2015, 6:14 PM EDT
The Nigerian team is led by an NBA veteran.
Aug 30, 2015, 5:01 PM EDT
It can’t become official until later this week.
Aug 30, 2015, 10:25 AM EDT
“I’m going to cut the goat … and drink the blood.”
Aug 29, 2015, 11:35 AM EDT
Jamaica swept the relays.
Aug 29, 2015, 11:23 AM EDT
Eaton was competing in his first decathlon in more than two years and wore a cooling hood.
Aug 28, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT
“That feeling of wanting to crawl out of your skin.”
Aug 28, 2015, 12:42 PM EDT
“No chance for rematch,” a meet director said.
Aug 28, 2015, 11:13 AM EDT
Davis, the second youngest U.S. Olympic basketball player ever in 2012, played the fewest minutes for Team USA at the London Games.
Aug 28, 2015, 11:11 AM EDT
Jenner explains why the medal isn’t displayed.
Aug 28, 2015, 10:39 AM EDT
Ashton Eaton clocks a decathlon world record. The third fastest woman ever in the 200m. The U.S. was shut out of the medals in its best event.
Aug 28, 2015, 7:25 AM EDT
A CCTV cameraman presented Bolt with a red bracelet.
Aug 27, 2015, 12:22 PM EDT
Bolt previously said he would retire after the 2017 World Championships.
Aug 27, 2015, 11:53 AM EDT
“The rumor I’m trying to start right now is that Justin Gatlin paid him off.”
- Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid is official 1
- Top ten storylines from World Track and Field Championships 0
- USOC, Los Angeles agree to 2024 Olympic bid, reports say 0
- U.S. finishes World Championships with fewest medals since 2003 3
- Usain Bolt anchors Jamaica to 4x100m relay gold after U.S. mishap 5
- Ashton Eaton breaks decathlon world record, wins World Championship 2
- Aries Merritt wins bronze before kidney transplant; incredible Worlds performances 0
- Emotional Bode Miller medals in race that mattered most (63)
- Russian women kissing after relay victory at World Championships causes stir (62)
- 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)