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Judge expected to rule in Pistorius hearing

9:30 AM, Feb 22, 2013   |    comments
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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- A South African magistrate is expected to decide this morning whether Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic and Paralympic sprinter charged with premeditated murder of his girlfriend, will be allowed to leave jail while awaiting trial.

On the fourth day of a bail hearing, magistrate Desmond Nair heard final arguments Friday in Pretoria, South Africa. Police say Pistorius, 26, shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp in his bathroom where she was hiding after an argument on Valentine's Day. He says he accidentally shot Steenkamp because he thought she was an intruder in his house.

Prosecutors argued that Pistorius is a flight risk.

"(Pistorius) is treating it as, 'Let me go, let me carry on my business as usual," prosecutor Gerrie Nel said. "But it can't be business as usual."

But Pistorius, a double amputee, isn't a flight risk because his prosthetic legs "need maintenance and adjustment on a monthly basis," defense lawyer Barry Roux said.

Legal experts say they expect Pistorius to be granted bail and that it could be months before the case goes to trial. In a murder trial in South Africa, a judge decides the case.

Roux introduced culpable homocide as a possible charge for Pistorius.

"He did not want to kill Reeva. He had no intent to kill Reeva," Roux said.

The fourth day in court was more subdued than earlier in the week when the hearing resembled a full-blown trial with detailed arguments and evidence presented by both sides.

Pistorius' case took a dramatic turn Thursday as police announced that lead investigator Hilton Botha has been replaced. Botha, who testified earlier in the week, faces attempted murder charges from a 2011 case. The charges stem from an incident in which Botha and two other police officers allegedly shot at a minibus they were trying to stop.

The charges revealed against Botha had originally been dropped in March 2012 but were reinstated Feb. 4. Nel said he learned about the charges Wednesday.

The decision to remove Botha from the case came a day after the detective appeared to damage the prosecution's case against Pistorius. Botha testified that police have found nothing inconsistent with Pistorius' account of the events that led to Steenkamp's death.

Earlier in the hearing, Botha said needles and testosterone were found in Pistorius' bedroom. The defense said the substance was herbal. A spokesman for South Africa's National Prosecution Agency said the substance is still being tested.

In spite of the prosecution's missteps, many South Africans, riveted by the case, are more convinced of Pistorius' guilt than his story.

"All his stories sound like lies," said Ryan George, 28, of Johannesburg

Others said Pistorius, a national hero in South Africa, assumes that his celebrity status affords him special protection and that he will probably get away with murder.

"No doubt that he wanted to kill her," said Andre Van Biljoen, 54, of Johannesburg. "If you look at his attitude at the Paralympics, you can see this guy is a narcissist."

Zaheer Cassim and Janelle Dumalaon, USA TODAY Sports

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