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'Blade runner' hires American forensic experts for murder defense

Story highlights

  • Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius wants the specialists to challenge evidence against him
  • He is accused of murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine's Day
  • He has received the nicknamed "Blade runner" for the prosthetic legs he sprints on

With his murder trial approaching this March, South African Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius has hired some help from the United States to challenge the case against him.

An American forensic team will give expert testimony to cast doubt on evidence entered against the athlete nicknamed the "Blade Runner" for the special prosthesis legs he sprints with, his spokeswoman Anneliese Burgess said Wednesday.

The track star, whose legs are amputated below the knees, admitted to shooting dead model Reeva Steenkamp, in his home on Valetine's Day. But he has said it was an accident.

Pistorius charged with premeditated murder in Steenkamp death

She was 29 when she died.

The state has indicted him for pre-meditated murder, and he faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison, if convicted.

    Pistorius denies the charge and has said he mistook his girlfriend for a home invader when he fired shots from a pistol through a bathroom door that she was behind. Pistorius also was indicted for allegedly violating South Africa's firearms control act. Some 107 witnesses are to testify against him.

    The American forensics team, who Burgess would not identify, is already in South Africa and has met with Pistorius' legal team.

    In previous court appearances, Pistorius has often broken down crying and fought to maintain his composure. Before the start of proceedings he could be seen at times holding hands with relatives and praying.

    The first phase of the trial will take place in March, but the entire trial could take place at various times across a year or more because of potential motions and postponements along the way.

    Michael Steenkamp, the victim's uncle, said the model's family isn't focusing on Pistorius' guilt or innocence, and they will not attend any of the related court proceedings.

    The uncle said his faith has helped him forgive Pistorius.

    "If I can't forgive him, and I have been forgiven, then that is our sin. And I very much asked the Lord to guide me before I got to Port Elizabeth when the tragedy happened ... that took a lot of pressure off my shoulders," he said.