Oscar Pistorius trial: First witness recounts hearing "blood-curdling screams"

First Oscar Pistorius Witness Recounts Hearing "Blood-Curdling Screams"

First Oscar Pistorius Witness Recounts Hearing "Blood-Curdling Screams"

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March 3 2014 11:47 AM

The Pistorius Murder Trial Kicks Off With a Story of "Blood-Curdling Screams"

South African amputee Olympian sprinter Oscar Pistorius looks at his watch as the start of his trial is delayed in the High Court in Pretoria on March 3, 2014 on the opening day of his murder trial

Photo by Themba Hadebe/AFP/Getty Images

The Oscar Pistorius murder trial got underway in South Africa on Monday, more than a year after the international track star shot and killed his girlfriend at his home. Pistorius, who has plead not guilty, maintains that he killed 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp by mistake thinking she was an intruder in his home. Prosecutors, of course, see things differently: They say the double-amputee Olympian known as the Blade Runner intentionally killed his reality TV star girlfriend after the two got into a fight. Here's the Associated Press with the big takeaway from Day 1 of what is sure to be a lengthy trial (the prosecution alone has a witness list in the triple digits):

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.

Michell Burger, who lives about 180 meters (196 yards) from Pistorius' house, said the screams woke her in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14 last year, when Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp by shooting four times through a toilet door. ... Burger's evidence contradicts Pistorius' version of events because the runner said he thought Steenkamp was in bed and did not describe any woman screaming.
"It was very traumatic," Burger said. "You could hear it was blood-curdling screams. You can't translate it into words. The anxiousness in her voice, and fear. It leaves you cold." Burger said: "She screamed terribly and she yelled for help" and testified that she also heard a man shout for help before the shots were fired.

Asked by the defense if she thought Pistorius was a liar, Burger somewhat sidestepped the question but it wasn't difficult to read between the lines: "I can only tell the court what I heard that evening," Burger said. "I cannot understand how I could clearly hear a woman scream but Mr. Pistorius could not hear it."

There's still a long way to go but by nearly all accounts the prosecutors got off to a much better start today than they did last year during the preliminary proceedings, when they stumbled out of the blocks, and then stumbled some more.

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