A U.S. forensic team is in South Africa helping to prepare a defense for double-amputee Olympian Oscar Pistorius, who was charged with premeditated murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend, according to a report on FirstPost.
The U.S. team will likely help counter any evidence given by the nearly 50 police officers and criminal experts that prosecutors could call at his murder trial early next year, the report said.
Pistorius, 26, was accused in the shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp, 29, at his house on Feb. 14. He maintains he mistook the model and reality TV star for an intruder and shot in self-defense.
Once considered the poster child of disabled sport, Pistorius faces a possible life sentence with a minimum of 25 years in prison if convicted. He could also face a lesser murder charge with a 15-year mandatory sentence, or a charge of culpable homicide or negligent killing, which carries a five-year prison term in South Africa if a firearm is used.
It’s standard practice to work with specialists from various fields in preparation for any trial, spokeswoman Anneliese Burgess said.
If Pistorius’ team can prove that he did not have his prosthetic legs on when he shot — and forensic experts may decipher that from the height of bullet holes in the door and the trajectory of the bullets — it will help his defense against the premeditated murder charge and hinder the prosecution, which initially insisted he fired after taking the time to put on his artificial limbs, the report said.
There is also persistent speculation that cellphone records, as well as the witness accounts, may hold evidence of a fight between the couple on the night of the shooting and point toward a possible motive.
Of the 107 state witnesses listed by the prosecution, 17 forensic, ballistics and crime scene specialists and a well-known South African criminal psychologist could be called to give evidence against Pistorius.
The state investigating team includes police detectives, forensic experts, ballistics experts, forensic psychologists and technology experts, the South African Police Service said in a statement.
Pistorius has done little else but focus on his murder trial since his last court appearance six weeks ago, Burgess said. The trial is scheduled to begin March 3 in Pretoria.