Image: Oscar Pistorius reacts during his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
AFP - Getty Images file

TODAY   |  April 11, 2014

Oscar Pistorius: ‘I had to protect Reeva’

The athlete again took the stand in his murder trial, where the prosecution’s grilling led him to fumble on the stand, prompting a warning from the judge. NBC national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> but first, let's begin this half-hour with day three of the prosecution's cross-examination of oscar pistorius . and there are signs that it's taking a toll on the olympic sprinter. jeff rossen is outside the courthouse in pretoria. jeff, good morning to you.

>> reporter: hey, matt. good morning to you. high drama in court today. the prosecutor, they call him the pit bull , caught oscar pistorius in several apparent mistakes, calling him a liar. at one point, the judge even stopped the trial to ask pistorius why he's making so many mistakes, and he was emotional again, too. the blade runner crying so much on the stand today, even that prosecutor grilling him said he's in distress. don't be fooled by the speed, says oscar pistorius . his disability makes him an easy target for thieves. testifying, he's been a victim of crime himself. it's a key element to pistorius 's defense, that his fear that night caused him to shoot and kill his model girlfriend reeva steenkamp. but in court today, a revelation on cross-examination.

>> did you ever go into a police station and complain about anything?

>> no i did not, my lady.

>> no burglaries or anything at your specific house?

>> that's correct, my lady.

>> reporter: the night of the shooting, pistorius claims he didn't know reeva was in the bathroom when he heard a possible intruder, but he fired anyway.

>> why would you arm yourself, rush towards the danger if you're not ready to shoot.

>> my lady, i didn't have time to think . i was dealt with a situation which i had to protect reeva and i had to protect myself.

>> it's not that easy. you cannot tell the court "i didn't think." you armed yourself and i'm sure you released the safety mechanism on your gun.

>> that's correct, my lady.

>> the fact of this matter is, if you stayed in this room, reeva would have been alive. those are the facts.

>> my lady, if i stayed where i was, anything could have happened. somebody should have shot reeva. i wanted to put as much distance as i could between reeva and what i perceived to be the danger.

>> reporter: the prosecutor also caught pistorius changing his story about shutting off his alarm system after the shooting.

>> mr. pistorius , that is the problem with evidence. you have to keep explaining. you are now in trouble, and now you just give an explanation that's nonsensical.

>> reporter: you can see pistorius 's lawyer rubbing his head today as his client blamed the mistakes on a lack of sleep.

>> i'm going to be tired. i don't need time. i am tired. it's not going to change. i've admitted to making a mistake.

>> reporter: that's when the judge had enough, and for the first time actually addressed pistorius herself.

>> mr. pistorius , it's important that you should be all here when you are in that witness box . do you understand that?

>> i do, my lady.

>> so if you are tired, and the reason you're making all these mistakes is because you're tired, you must say so.

>> i understand, my lady.

>> reporter: like so many other days, pistorius broke down on the stand when asked about the placement of a fan in his bedroom that night.

>> it's a difficult time for me to remember.

>> but why would this question make you emotional?

>> because this is the night that i lost a person i cared about. i don't know how people don't understand that.

>> reporter: reeva's family and friends are back in court today watching it all. in a new interview, reeva's mother is opening up about how difficult this is to watch this trial up close every day. take a listen.

>> i'm angry now when i hear the details of exactly what happened. i'm angry now. still forgiving, but i'm angry.

>> reporter: that documentary airs on discovery i.d. this sunday at 9:00 p.m ., 8:00 central. by the way, today is day number five on the stand for oscar pistorius . day number three of cross-examination. it is not over yet, matt. court just finished up for the week. he'll be back on the stand monday.

>> jeff rossen in pretoria. thanks