TODAY   |  March 03, 2014

Pistorius trial underway in South Africa

The athlete’s trial is underway in South Africa, where he pleaded not guilty to a charge of murdering his girlfriend. It’s being called the “trial of the century” in South Africa. NBC’s Jeff Rossen reports.

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>> and the trial of oscar pistorius is beginning today in south africa . the so-called blade runner is charged with intentionally killing his girlfriend. "today" correspondent jeff rossen is covering the trial for us. jeff, good morning to you.

>> good morning to you. they're calling this the trial of the century in south africa , day one, and we're underway, several hours of testimony already. no question about it, oscar pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend at the time, reeva steenkamp. the question is what was going through his mind at the time. was it an accident as he claims or premeditated murder ? oscar pistorius slipped into court through a side door. once a national hero . the first ever double amputee to compete in the olympics, now a national spectacle, accused of killing his girlfriend reeva steenkamp in cold blood . today, her mother is in court, face-to-face with pistorius for the first time since reeva's death.

>> do you understand the charge?

>> i do, my lady.

>> how do you plead?

>> not guilty, my lady.

>> but prosecutors fired back saying their case against him is strong.

>> the only inference from the circumstantial evidence --

>> pistorius and reeva were the it couple on the red carpet .

>> hi. i'm oscar's date tonight.

>> in fact, just days before her death, they looked happy. kissing in this grocery store surveillance video obtained by sky news. but then, her tragic end. reeva was sleeping over last valentine's day, pistorius says he heard an intruder in the bathroom. so startled, he didn't even have time to put on his prosthetic legs. grabbed his gun, walked across the bedroom and pumped four bullets through the bathroom door. it was really reeva in there. these crime scene photos tell the story. three bullets hit her and killed her. prosecutors say this was no accident. and they can prove it.

>> prosecutors have to prove intent. regardless of whether it was reeva steenkamp behind the door. if it was an intruder, he was intending to shoot.

>> no matter who he shot back there, it's murder in south africa .

>> whoever he intended to shoot, it's murder.

>> reporter: one of oscar pistorius ' neighbors took the stand here in south africa a short time ago saying she heard, quote, blood-curdling screams that night. first from a woman, then from a man, then heard several gun shots. she's being cross-examined right now. one other quick know. this is not a jury trial as it would act in the states, guys, a single judge with two assistants who will decide his fate.

>> all right, jeff rossen , thank you. and a programming note. tomorrow on "today," reeva steenkamp's mother june will join us for an exclusive live interview. her first since the start of the trial.

>>> let us take a turn right now and get that winter storm outlook. here's al tracking it from los angeles . al?

>> hey, guys, thanks so much. interestingly enough, yesterday, kathie lee , after this horrendous rain and