Pistorius trial resumes, defense opens case

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Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock inside court in Pretoria, South Africa, Friday, March 28, 2014, as members of his defense team, foreground, talk over benches. The murder trial of Oscar Pistorius has been delayed until April 7 because one of the legal experts who will assist the judge in reaching a verdict is sick, abruptly ending expectations Friday that the double-amputee athlete was about to testify on his fatal shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. (AP Photo/Werner Beukes, Pool)

Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock inside court in Pretoria, South Africa, Friday, March 28, 2014, as members of his defense team, foreground, talk over benches. The murder trial of Oscar Pistorius has been delayed until April 7 because one of the legal experts who will assist the judge in reaching a verdict is sick, abruptly ending expectations Friday that the double-amputee athlete was about to testify on his fatal shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. (AP Photo/Werner Beukes, Pool)

Oscar Pistorius leaves court in Pretoria, South Africa, Friday March 28, 2014, after the trial was postponed after one of the legal experts who will assist the judge in reaching a verdict is sick. Pistorius is charged with the Valentines Day 2013 shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. (AP Photo/Werner Beukes, Pool)

Oscar Pistorius, left, leaves the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, Friday, March 28, 2014. The murder trial of Pistorius has been delayed until April 7 because one of the legal experts who will assist the judge in reaching a verdict is sick, the judge said Friday. Pistorius is charged with murder for the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentines Day in 2013. Pistorius is charged with murder for the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentines Day in 2013. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

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PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The defense in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial opened its case on Monday, calling a pathologist in an effort to cast doubt on the prosecution’s assertion that girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp ate no more than two hours before the double-amputee runner killed her.

The testimony by Prof. Jan Botha was critical to the defense because Pistorius has claimed the couple was in his bedroom by 10 p.m. on Feb. 13, 2013, and any indication that they were awake much later could undermine the Olympian’s account of the sequence of events. Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp after 3 a.m. the next morning, saying he mistook her for an intruder in his home. The prosecution has argued that he intentionally killed her after an argument.

Botha said the time frame of digestion was difficult to assess because of variations in many factors, including the volume of food consumed, its caloric content and the psychology of the person who was eating. The testimony countered statements by a pathologist called by the prosecution who said that, judging by the food contents in her stomach, Steenkamp probably last ate no more than two hours before her death.

Botha’s testimony followed four weeks of prosecution-led testimony and a week’s adjournment after one of the judge’s aides fell ill. He was allowed to take the stand first and ahead of Pistorius in an agreement with prosecutors because of a family illness. Defendants who choose to testify normally go first in South Africa.

Pistorius is expected to testify after Botha and explain his version that he killed Steenkamp by mistake on Valentine’s Day last year. He is charged with premeditated murder for the nighttime killing and faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

Defense lawyer Barry Roux said he would call between 14 and 17 witnesses.

Associated Press

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