PRETORIA — South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius is due back in the dock on Thursday for the final phase of his dramatic murder trial before the judge hands down a verdict.
The court will witness the ultimate showdown between defence lawyer Barry Roux and senior state prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who will present their final arguments. The two top trial lawyers have dominated the months-long trial during which Pistorius has at times sat weeping and vomiting in the dock, turning live broadcasts of the case into a gripping soap opera.
Pistorius, a double-amputee star sprinter known as the "Blade Runner," faces a minimum of 25 years in jail if he is convicted of the premeditated murder of his model girlfriend.
He admits shooting Reeva Steenkamp four times through a locked toilet door on the night of Valentines Day last year, but says he believed she was an intruder in his upmarket Pretoria home.
Prosecutor Nel calls Pistorius, 27, a liar and says he deliberately killed the 29-year-old law graduate after an argument.
Even if he is not found guilty of premeditated murder,Pistorius could still be convicted and jailed on alternative charges of murder or culpable homicide.
The trial, which began on March 23, was adjourned a month ago after the court heard evidence from a total of 37 witnesses.
As it resumes, state prosecutor Nel will be first to argue why Pistorius should be found guilty, before the defence sets out it arguments over his innocence.
The hearing is set down for two days before Judge Thokozile Masipa, who is then expected to adjourn the case for a couple of weeks before delivering her verdict.
The defence has sought to portray Pistorius as obsessed with safety, a result of a difficult childhood and his disability, factors which they argue explain his reaction the night he killed Steenkamp.
Pistorius, a gold medallist Paralympian, rose to international fame when he competed alongside able-bodied runners at the 2012 London Olympics.
Once a poster boy for disabled sport,he has been stripped of his lucrative endorsement deals by global brands and has withdrawn from all competitions.
Members of his extended family, including younger brother Carl, have been a permanent feature in the public gallery. Steenkamp's grieving mother has also attended the trial regularly, and her father Barry is expected to be in court for the first time on Thursday, according to a lawyer representing the family. — AFP