LONDON — Before the High Court in Pretoria, the South African capital, Oscar Pistorius has been depicted variously as anguished and remorseful, egotistic, enamored of guns and filled with rage that propelled him to kill his girlfriend last year.
But today, his stop-start murder trial — televised around the world and one of the most sensational since the O.J. Simpson hearings — took a decisive step closer to the moment when Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa will offer her judgment on which portrayal of Pistorius, a double-amputee track star, she believes is real.
On the 39th day of hearings since the trial, which was supposed to last only three weeks, opened in March, defense lawyers rested their case and the hearings adjourned to permit both sides to prepare their written arguments before they return to court on Aug. 7 and 8 to make their final oral arguments. A verdict could be in before the end of August, according to reporters in the courtroom who have tweeted every minute detail of the case.
But even as the trial nudged toward its closing stages after testimony from almost 40 witnesses, Pistorius, 27, was again depicted as a man of contradictions, torn between supreme achievement on the track and a profound sense of private vulnerability away from it.
“Although he loathes to be pitied in any way,” Professor Wayne Derman, a leading South African sports physician, said of Pistorius, “the hard truth is that he does not have lower legs.”
Derman, who worked with the runner for several years, said, “You’ve got a paradox — of an individual who is supremely able and an individual who is significantly disabled.”
The defense argues that Pistorius’ condition left him hyper-alert to any perceived threat — a factor, his lawyers argue, in his behavior in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013, when he has admitted shooting to death Reeva Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law school graduate. The prosecution says he killed her in a jealous rage, but Pistorius says he shot her by mistake in the belief that an intruder had entered his home.
Since there is no jury trial in South Africa, Masipa will consider her judgment with the help of two assessors. The charge of premeditated murder carries a mandatory minimum term of 25 years. The defense seemed Tuesday to be laying the groundwork for a possible appeal if Pistorius is convicted.