By Jake Courtepatte
The murder trail of Oscar Pistorius began Monday, more than one year after the shooting death of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his Pretoria home.
The man nicknamed “Blade Runner” entered the South African courtroom through a back entrance, to avoid the media circus milling around the front of the building.
He is accused of the murder of Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013. His defence says he mistook the victim for a late night burglar. Pistorius plead “not guilty” to the charges laid against him.
Parts of the trial are being broadcast live, a first for South African courts. South Africa also abolished jury trials in 1969, meaning Pistorius’ fate rests in the hands of Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa.
Toronto Star reporter Stephanie Findlay was at the first day of the trial, and told Humber News that Judge Masipa “left the talking to the lawyers”, taking the time to hear both sides of the case.
Findlay says this was quite different from previous judges in this case, who “seemed to relish the limelight.”
One witness took the stand on Monday, neighbour Michelle Burger. Burger described hearing “bloodcurdling screams” from a woman the night of Steenkamp’s death, citing that her husband called the police just after 3:00 a.m.
After her testimony, Twitter was abuzz over her handling of defense attorney Barry Roux’s cross-examination. Burger was grilled by the DA over her account of the evening, as Roux attempted to find a hole in her story.
Does anyone else think that Michelle Burger is brilliant and an absolute nightmare to the defense? #OscarTrial
— Adhila Vally (@MeanGirl786) March 3, 2014
Some woman are strong and can withstand pressure #MichelleBurger is one good example
— JUSTICE 4 STEENKAMP (@Stereo_Nkosi) March 3, 2014
#OscarPistorius Michelle Burger should be very proud of herself. She remained steadfast and determined despite Roux’s pestering.
— Megan (@MeganWridgway) March 3, 2014
Pistorius, 27, rose to fame during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, where he was the first amputee runner to compete at the Olympic Games. Called “The Fastest Man on No Legs”, Pistorius became a household name in his native country of South Africa.
“My friends here are complaining they can’t escape the Pistorius coverage,” said Findlay. “His face is plastered everywhere…TV, newspapers.”
It is expected to take about three weeks for Judge Masipa to determine whether the killing was in cold blood or a case of mistaken identity. Click here for an interactive timeline of both sides of the case.