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Gory details lend Oscar Pistorius trial a 'CSI' flavor

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
updated 11:12 AM EDT, Sun March 16, 2014
  • Gory autopsy details and photographs of the crime scene shown at the trial
  • Oscar Pistorius is charged with murder in the slaying of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp
  • He says her shooting death was an accident, not premeditated murder
  • The bathroom door through which she was shot was reassembled in court

Pretoria, South Africa (CNN) -- As it entered its second week, the Oscar Pistorius murder trial turned into an episode of "CSI," replete with gory autopsy details and photographs of the crime scene. Even the bathroom door through which he shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was reassembled and put up in court.

Drama from the trial came from a police expert swinging Pistorius' cricket bat at the door in court to try to determine whether he was wearing his prosthetic legs when he did it. It came as well from detailed descriptions of the damage hollow-tip bullets do to human flesh.

And then, of course, there was the effect of the evidence on Pistorius himself, who spent hours vomiting as he was forced to relive seeing Steenkamp's mortal wounds.

The sprinter admits that he killed Steenkamp, his 29-year-old girlfriend of about four months, on Valentine's Day 2013 but says it was a terrible accident, not premeditated murder.

Pistorius, 27, is pleading not guilty to murder and three other weapons charges.

Prosecution and defense battled all week over the meaning of four types of evidence.

Oscar Pistorius reaches out to his uncle Arnold Pistorius and other family members as he is led out of court in Pretoria, South Africa, after being sentenced to five years in prison on Tuesday, October 21. Pistorius, the first double-amputee runner to compete in the Olympics, was sentenced for culpable homicide in the February 2013 death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Oscar Pistorius reaches out to his uncle Arnold Pistorius and other family members as he is led out of court in Pretoria, South Africa, after being sentenced to five years in prison on Tuesday, October 21. Pistorius, the first double-amputee runner to compete in the Olympics, was sentenced for culpable homicide in the February 2013 death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
Oscar Pistorius trial
Photos: Oscar Pistorius trial Photos: Oscar Pistorius trial
Pistorius: Cricket bat shown in court
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Defense looks for forensic mistakes

One: The autopsy

Steenkamp died of multiple gunshot wounds, including one that passed through her brain from above her right eye to the base of her skull, pathologist Gert Saayman testified.

That wound was probably almost instantly fatal, he said, but either of the two other bullets that hit her in the hip and the right arm could have been fatal on their own, he said. She also had a wound between the fingers of one hand, he explained.

The angle of the bullet that fractured her skull suggested she might not have been standing when she was hit, Saayman said.

The bullets that hit her were hollow-tipped, designed to cause maximum tissue damage, he testified.

Steenkamp was wearing Nike shorts and a black sleeveless top when she died, Saayman said.

There's no dispute that Pistorius fired the bullets that killed Steenkamp through his bathroom door, so the most important area of debate from the autopsy was the state of food in her stomach.

Saayman said it suggested she had eaten about two hours before she died, which contradicts Pistorius' version of events that they had been asleep in bed for hours before the killing.

Pistorius' defense lawyer, Barry Roux, fought tooth and nail to cast doubt on Saayman's finding about the stomach contents, but Saayman gave no ground.

Two: The door

The actual door through which Pistorius fired the bullets into Steenkamp was on display in court for much of the week, a mock-up of the toilet room behind it. Four bullet holes and several other marks in the wood were clearly visible.

Prosecution and defense disagree on whether Pistorius put his legs on before or after bashing the door with a cricket bat to get to his girlfriend.

Police forensic analyst J.G. Vermeulen testified that the angle of the bat marks in the door indicated Pistorius was still on the stumps of his legs at that point, demonstrating in court the angle of the swing.

But the defense disputed his version, with two lawyers from the Pistorius team taking their own swings at the door during a break, then making Vermeulen swing on the door from his knees.

Vermeulen insisted that the stances the defense made him adopt were "unnatural," to which Roux responded: "Unnatural for you."

There was also discussion of another mark in the door that Vermeulen said was not from a cricket bat.

The defense says it's where Pistorius kicked the door with his prosthetic leg before going for his bat. Vermeulen said that was a possibility but refused to accept it was the only explanation. He said he had not tested the mark because his assignment had been only to check the cricket bat marks.

There was also discussion about footprints that appeared on the door in some photos but are not there now.

Vermeulen said they were consistent with police shoes.

Roux used their disappearance to suggest the door had been handled sloppily by police -- stepping on it when it was on the floor and later wiping the marks off -- to cast doubt on its reliability as evidence.

Three: Police photos of the house

The court saw more than 150 photos of Pistorius' house taken by police in the hours and days after Steenkamp was killed, showing shocking images including a blood-spattered toilet and the Olympian's gun, still cocked, on a blood-stained floor.

The position of several key objects could help determine whether Pistorius is telling the truth about the events leading up to Steenkamp's death.

Attention focuses on the position of spent bullet cartridges on the floor, two iPhones and the fan that Pistorius says he went out onto his balcony to get before the heard the noise which he thought was a burglar.

The photos also show the trail of blood from the bathroom to the lower floor from when Pistorius carried Steenkamp's body down the stairs.

Four: Phone records

Pistorius and several of his neighbors made calls to security in the minutes after the shooting. The record of the calls between about 3:15 and 3:22 a.m. have helped establish a timeline of events, even as witnesses dispute who called whom and when.

Ex-police commander's testimony aids defense

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