TODAY

TODAY   |  August 19, 2013

Oscar Pistorius ‘somber’ at indictment

The double amputee sprinter and former Olympian has been formally charged with premeditated murder for allegedly shooting and killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day. TODAY’s legal analyst Lisa Bloom reports on what to expect at the trial, set for March 3, 2014.

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>>> oscar pistorius case. the sprinter appearing in a south african court this morning formally charged in the murder of his girlfriend. ron is outside the courthouse with the story. good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, savannah. yes, this morning prosecutors say oscar pistorius intentionally shot and killed reeva steenkamp. he says he was firing as an intruder he thought in his home that night. prosecutors think this is not a case that involves a mistake. they say it's a case of murder. olympic sprinter oscar pistorius arrived in court appearing somber and focused. his family and friend there is to see him. not making eye contact with steenkamp's friends. everyone was dressed in black. the state in question, state witnesses heard a woman scream followed by gunshots and then more screaming. steenkamp died in the bathroom of pistorius 's house, shot through a locked door. the indictment also says the accused shot with the direct intention to kill a person.

>> the charges are premeditated murder . that means it was committed intentionally.

>> reporter: these pictures show steenkamp arriving at pistorius 's gated home the night before she died. pistorius said they were alone and asleep until the early morning hours when pistorius believed an intruder entered his house.

>> i heard a noise in the bathroom and realized someone was in the bathroom. i felt a sense of terror rushing over me. without his prosthetic legs on and limited mobility he grabbed a 9 millimeter pistol and made his way to the bathroom. i fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to reeva to phone police. only after returning to the bedroom did he realize steenkamp was not there. since being released on bail a week after the killing, pistorius rarely has been seen in public. if pistorius is found guilty of premeditated murder the celebrity sprinter and golden boy of the london olympics could face 25 years to life in prison . the judge set the trial date for march 3rd of next year. there's also local media reports here that pistorius might be charged in two other cases of recklessly firing his gun in public. but today prosecutors are focused solely on the murder of reeva steenkamp.

>> all right. ron allen , thank you. let's turn to lisa bloom , today's legal analyst.

>> good morning.

>> this is the formal charge now. we saw a bit more of the prosecutions evidence. do you think this is a strong case for premeditated murder ?

>> well, i think it's a challenging case but i'm intrigued by this new allegation that there was a woman screaming before the shots were fired. if that's so, it's difficult to understand how oscar pistorius could have thought it was an intruder in the bathroom and his his girlfriend.

>> well, pistorius provided a written account and narrative of what he said happened that night. he did that as part of the bail hearing . is that a disadvantage to him now? is he wed to that version of defense?

>> the defense lawyers never like it when their client gives a detailed account of what happened. that's a blueprint from the prosecution to go through line by line and try to show inconsistencies and outright lies. the biggest evidence is going to be the ballistic evidence. were they fired low and upwards which would support oscar's story that he wasn't wearing his prosthetic legs at the time or at a higher height and straight through the door which would show he had time to put the prosthetic legs on.

>> it would demonstrate which version of events is likely to be true. he apparently intends to argue because of his disability and unique circumstances he felt more fear about an intruder than another person might reasonably fear. is that a plausible argument?

>> well, it's something that might help him. a lot of south africans are concerned about crime so that might make sense in that community. but it's hard to understand how he wouldn't have first looked to his side to see if his girlfriend is there in bed. you that naturally protective instinct to protect his girlfriend before running to the bathroom. also intruders don't usually stop to use the bathroom so it's hard to understand how he would have thought a burglar was in his restroom.

>> and in south africa they don't have a jury trial . it's a bench trial . the judge will decide. is that a disadvantage to pistorius ?

>> could be. there will be less emotion in this case and more focus on the forensic evidence , on the cell phones, on what the witnesses have to say. as you say, savannah, ultimately, most importantly the story that he gave. is it consistent with all the other evidence in the case?

>> lisa bloom , always great to get your perspective. thank you very much.