Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial Adjourned Until April 7

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The double amputee Olympian was expected to take the stand today as the first witness for the defense but will now likely testify next month.

On the day that it was widely anticipated that Olympian Oscar Pistorius would give his first public statements about the night he shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, media and participants that packed the courtroom in Pretoria, South Africa were told they will have to wait until April 7.

It was expected that Pistorius would take the stand as the defense’s first witness. But Judge Thokozile Masipa announced that the case would be adjourned until April 7 because one of her assessors had taken ill. An assessor is a legal expert the judge appoints to hear all the evidence and assist her in making a verdict. There are no juries in South Africa, and two assessors for this murder trial.

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The prosecution wrapped its case on Thursday after 15 days of hearings, and the defense team was due to start presenting its case today. Observers in South Africa say Pistorius’ testimony is crucial as it will allow the judge to determine his credibility.  

Pistorius faces a 25-year jail term if found guilty of the premeditated murder of Steenkamp, whom he admits shooting through the bathroom door of his home in Pretoria on Valentine's Day last year. Pistorius contends that he thought he was shooting an intruder.

And while the trial is being televised in South Africa for the first time ever in that country -- and video and audio of the trial is live-streamed to viewers worldwide by most international media -- Pistorius’ testimony, when it does take place, is unlikely to be televised.

The prosecution witnesses' testimony can be shown, but not that of Pistorius or his witnesses, and no parts of confidential discussions between Pistorius and his lawyers can be broadcast in any way, according to court rules. 

Other witnesses are able to ask that their evidence not be televised, although live audio of the full court proceedings, including Pistorius’ testimony, can still be broadcast under the court's rules, which were announced by a different judge in February.

On Sunday the court said the trial would be extended until mid May, with one week of adjournment from April 7-14. That has now been brought forward.