Oscar Pistorius trial is postponed

The trial of Oscar Pistorius is adjourned to 7 April when the defence will open its case, with the athlete expected to be first to take the stand

Read a summary of today’s key events

10.27am GMT

I’m wrapping up this live blog now. You can read David Smith’s report from the Pretoria court here. A quick recap:

The trial of Oscar Pistorius for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp has been adjourned after one of the judge’s assessors without whom the court cannot proceed fell ill.

10.20am GMT

My colleague David Smith has filed from Pretoria on the postponement of the trial:

The decision marked an abrupt end to days of media hype, dashing hopes that Pistorius was about to take the witness stand and testify about his fatal shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentines day last year. If this had gone ahead, TV viewers would not have been able to see 27-year-olds face but would have heard him via audio feed.

The disappointment was evident among the Paralympians family, who had turned out in force to hear him. He was all geared up, one said.

9.48am GMT

Interestingly, it looks as if Pistorius might not be first up to give evidence when his defence opens on 7 April:

#OscarPistorius The athlete will not be the first witness for the defence after agreement btwn both sides. 1st up is defence pathologist

#Pistorius Prosecution agrees that defence can call its independent pathologist ahead of Pistorius if it wants to when trial resumes 7/4

9.28am GMT

When the Pistorius trial resumes on 7 April, it looks set to clash with another high-profile murder case that of Shrien Dewani, accused of orchestrating the killing of his wife Anni while on honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010.

Dewani, having lost a legal battle in the UK to avoid deportation to South Africa, is due to travel to Cape Town on 7 April and to appear in court there on 8 April.

8.50am GMT

We have a bit more information on the court assessors, one of whom has been taken ill, prompting the adjournment of the trial until 7 April.

At the start of the trial, at the beginning of March, the judge, Thokozile Masipa, swore in two assessors: Janet Henzen-Du-Toit (believed to be the person in hospital today) and Themba Mazibuko.

For the Pistorius trial, Judge Masipa appointed Janet Henzen-du Toit and Themba Mazibuko as her assessors. They are there to help her make a decision. The assessors will sit with Judge Masipa during the proceedings and listen to all the evidence presented to the judge. At the end of the case they will present their opinions to Judge Masipa. However, she is allowed to override them.

On the Legal Brief website, Professor Annette van der Merwe, a criminal procedure law expert at the University of Pretoria, said the two assessors could overrule the judge when it comes to a verdict on the facts in a majority finding. This means that if the two assessors were to rule in favour of murder, or the judge and one assessor were to rule so, that verdict would be the accepted one. The same would apply if two of them were to rule in favour of an acquittal.

8.43am GMT

Members of the Pistorius family were in court again today for the (brief) hearing as David Smith reports, they have been a constant presence on the bench behind the athlete during his trial:

His estranged father, Henke, has been conspicuously absent from the trial, but Pistorius’s siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins have been out in force to support him.

Among them is the Paralympian’s uncle, Arnold Pistorius, the de facto family spokesman who takes careful notes, and his sister, Aimee, who when court adjourns is often first to join the distraught Pistorius in the dock with comforting words and hugs. Their unwavering belief in him and his explanation is clear, and evidently a great solace to him.

The tragedy brings the two families to the same court bench every day, and the Pistoriuses have attempted to bridge the desperately awkward divide.

Recently, Aimee was seen walking over to June, speaking to her for several minutes and touching hands. A day later, Arnold also made an approach and offered consoling words. On another occasion a letter from Aimee was passed along the row to June. There has also been a hint of mutual acknowledgement between Pistorius and June, who criticised him for ignoring her on the first day.

8.25am GMT

8.23am GMT

Sky News’ Martin Brunt reports that the court assessor involved is Janette Henzen du Toit, who is apparently in hospital.

8.14am GMT

Pistorius’ chief lawyer, Barry Roux, isn’t speaking to reporters as he leaves the court following the unexpected adjournment.

#OscarPistorius Barry Roux leaves court building. Asked whether he so disappointed,he just smiles.RE pic.twitter.com/CdzI4bDIAI

7.56am GMT

The court assessors one of whom is ill, forcing a postponement of the trial are legal experts appointed by Judge Thokozile Masipa to assist in the trial. There is no jury.

As Masipa said today, without both assessors the court is not "properly constituted", and so the trial cannot proceed.

7.43am GMT

#Pistorius Oscar leaves court and must wait at least 10 days to give evidence. pic.twitter.com/FA1sdV1rsl

7.40am GMT

Judge Masipa: "We cannot proceed this morning… One of my assessors is not well… I suggest we postpone this matter until 7 April."

Masipa: "This matter will be postponed until Monday the 7th of April 2014 at 9.30." Court adjourned. #Pistorius

7.38am GMT

This was supposed to be the recess week but all sides have agreed to come back to court on that date.

7.36am GMT

One of the court assessors is ill and today’s proceedings have been postponed.

7.34am GMT

Reporters in Pretoria say the courtroom is packed in anticipation of Pistorius giving evidence today we still don’t know that he will, although most expect him to be the first witness for the defence when it opens today.

It’s also expected that when Pistorius does give his testimony, audio will be broadcast but the cameras in the court will not be able to show him. This was decided by a different judge in a ruling in February:

Expert witnesses’ testimony can be shown but not that of Pistorius or his witnesses. Restrictions could be placed on other witness testimony if they object to being shown on TV The court would then consider showing such testimonies from behind the witness or obscuring their face.

No parts of confidential discussions between Pistorius and his lawyers could be broadcast in any way.

7.25am GMT

The Guardian’s David Smith, who is covering the case from Pretoria, has also assessed the key questions the defence will have to answer. You can read it in full here.

This is not a whodunnit but a whydunnit, with only one eyewitness: Pistorius himself. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel acknowledged on the first day of the trial that all of the evidence is necessarily circumstantial. The 27-year-old’s character will therefore be under the microscope. A convincing performance on the witness stand could spell the difference between life in jail or a chance to resurrect his sporting career.

7.23am GMT

Pistorius has arrived in court.

#Pistorius Oscar and guards arrive for first day of defence case. Big question – will he be the first witness? pic.twitter.com/khgnuqYxpP

7.16am GMT

Welcome to live coverage of day 16 of the trial of Oscar Pistorius for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. Today the defence will open its case, and Pistorius is expected to be the first witness to give evidence, although this hasn’t yet been confirmed. Here is a quick recap of the latest developments:

On Tuesday the state concluded its case. Prosecutors will not set out their final argument until the end of the trial, but their case has focused on evidence from text and WhatsApp exchanges showing Pistorius and Steenkamp argued and testimony that several neighbours heard terrified screams and gunshots. They have sought to portray the athlete as fanatical about guns and reckless in using them.

Four neighbours have testified they heard a womans screams, silenced by the final gunshots. If this testimony is upheld, it alone could be enough to convict Mr Pistorius of murder, since it implies that he continued shooting after he knew who was behind the door.

The defence will argue that the "womans screams were actually uttered by Mr Pistorius as he screamed for help. It will also argue that the gunshots were the noise of a cricket bat on the door as Mr Pistorius battered it down to try to save Ms Steenkamps life.

Pistorius has provided no indication that he even attempted to establish the whereabouts of Steenkamp before arming himself and approaching the perceived threat.

Pistorius says in the bail application that he fired the shots and then called to Steenkamp to call the police, but she did not respond. Pistorius then retreated to the bed, and once he got there still in pitch darkness it dawned upon him that Reeva could have been in the toilet.

Perhaps we’ve been distracted by all the talk of restaurant gunfire, screams, and angry texts. It’s been made clear to me that the prosecution believes their case is watertight even if we accept Pistorius’ own version of events.

In other words if someone fires four shots through a locked door then he obviously intended to kill someone, and thus should be convicted of murder (pre-meditated or otherwise).

Link to article: feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663879/s/38b5a703/sc/40/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cworld0C20A140Cmar0C280Coscar0Epistorius0Etrial0Efriday0E280Emarch0Elive/story01.htm

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