Pistorius will not be first defence witness: Lawyer

Oscar Pistorius leaves the court after his trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was postponed at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on March 28, 2014. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
Oscar Pistorius leaves the court after his trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was postponed at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on March 28, 2014. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Paralympian star Oscar Pistorius is not expected to be the first defence witness to take the stand when his murder trial resumes next week, one of his lawyers said on Tuesday, April 1, 2014.

The 27-year-old sprinter, a double amputee known as the "Blade Runner", is accused of killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year.

The defence will begin to present its case at a Pretoria court on Monday.

While the law states that the accused must be the defence's first witness if he chooses to take the stand, it is now expected that lawyers will ask for forensics expert Jan Botha to be allowed to testify before Pistorius.

"He (Botha) has personal reasons as to why he wants to testify first," lawyer Brian Webber told the South African news agency Sapa.

Pistorius has denied the murder charge, saying he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder. He is the only surviving witness to the events inside his house in the early hours of February 14, 2013, so his testimony is likely to be key.

The star athlete has to explain why he fired four shots at the model and aspiring television actress through a locked toilet door, and undermine prosecutors' argument that her death was premeditated murder.

It will be the first time he speaks in public since the killing, besides pleading "not guilty, milady", and the occasional "yes, milady" to Judge Thokozile Masipa during his trial.

Pistorius does not have to testify, but his defence team has indicated it believes it will be in his interest to explain the night's events.

The trial, which had been adjourned for more than a week because a senior court official was ill, is now slated to run to at least mid-May.