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:
May 22, 2015, 3:44 PM EDT
The 2000 Olympic champion continues to struggle with weight loss.
May 22, 2015, 10:40 AM EDT
“We’re not baking cakes.”
May 22, 2015, 9:57 AM EDT
“We want to rebuild the arena of the Colosseum so that the athletes can be lifted in like the gladiators in the Roman times.”
May 22, 2015, 9:25 AM EDT
The U.S. won “Beat the Streets” 9-4.
May 21, 2015, 11:49 AM EDT
Skaters, skiers, gymnasts, track and field athletes and more.
May 21, 2015, 9:18 AM EDT
Russia ceded its place as top challenger to the U.S. in recent Olympics.
May 20, 2015, 8:10 PM EDT
They were a gift from a previous Olympic host city.
May 20, 2015, 3:07 PM EDT
Usain Bolt dropped on the list and is no longer the top track and field athlete.
May 20, 2015, 1:38 PM EDT
Markus Rehm jumped another personal best on Saturday, moving up the list of top active jumpers.
May 20, 2015, 1:09 PM EDT
Letterman had a special correspondent at the 1994 and 1998 Winter Olympics.
May 20, 2015, 12:53 PM EDT
The Olympic silver medalist has been off the elite competition radar for nearly two years.
May 20, 2015, 11:56 AM EDT
The World champion explained the origin of her design.
May 20, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
Gatlin’s agent also called the sprinter “misunderstood.”
May 20, 2015, 8:21 AM EDT
A stopwatch used to time Bannister’s feat was also recently auctioned.
May 19, 2015, 12:41 PM EDT
Seebohm took silver behind Franklin in 2012 and 2013 but was faster last year.
May 19, 2015, 7:47 AM EDT
“They didn’t have any respect for me.”
May 18, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT
The 22-time Olympic medalist finished first or second in zero events at a meet for the first time since the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
May 18, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT
David Boudia leads the team, while a four-time Olympian just missed.
May 18, 2015, 7:18 AM EDT
The three-time World champion is training again but isn’t definite on competing.
May 17, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT
Canada is grouped with South Korea in what could be a rout in preliminary play.
- Rulon Gardner on returning to wrestling training, getting his gold medal back 0
- David Letterman and the Olympics 0
- Caster Semenya: I can’t stop running because of gender controversy 0
- Roger Bannister’s shoes from 4-minute mile set for auction 1
- Justin Gatlin ‘kicked out’ of Beijing track meet 1
- Michael Phelps self-assessment: ‘horrendous,’ ‘garbage’ after winless Charlotte meet 5
- Mao Asada blogs about returning to figure skating 2
- 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)