A knife-edge ruling on whether Pistorius will be granted bail and released, or denied it and probably sent to prison, is expected on Friday.
The unenviable decision lies with magistrate Desmond Nair, who faces criticism either way. If he grants bail, he will anger gender violence campaigners who are pushing for Pistorius to remain in custody. If he refuses, Pistorius's well-organised PR machine is unlikely to take it quietly.
On Thursday, seemingly testing the water, Nair asked defence advocate Barry Roux about the South African public mood. There was outrage on both sides, Roux replied, and "you can see the sentiment changing all the time".
Nair pressed: "Do you think there will be some level of shock if the accused is released?" Roux said: "I think there will be a level of shock in this country if he is not released." There were murmurs of support from Pistorius's family in the public gallery.
The runner's haunted expression and periodic fits of tears that have been at the centre of courtroom C in Pretoria magistrates' court this week were in evidence again on day three of this drawn-out bail hearing, along with the now-familiar grey suit, blue shirt and dark tie. But the 26-year-old's brother, Carl, wearing glasses and a striped jacket, seemed energised as he walked through the public gallery, shaking the hands of supporters. He spent long periods looking down at an iPhone and has begun using the Twitter account @carlpistorius to comment on the case.
"How does the prosecution lie with a straight face," Carl posted on Thursday, referring to prosecutors' warnings that the accused could be a flight risk. "Passport was tendered to IO! I went to collect in Johannesburg upon the IO's request." He tweeted, referring to the investigating officer.
In a case that has already seen its fair share of revelations, Thursday's hearing began with prosecutor Gerrie Nel making an announcement about the chief investigating officer. "It became known to me and my team yesterday that detective Hilton Botha faces seven charges of attempted murder and will appear in court in May," he said. "We didn't know this yesterday." Nel wanted to put this on record, he continued, following media reports that Botha is facing the charges over a 2011 incident in which he and other police officers opened fire on a minibus with seven people inside.
Botha, who has now been removed from the case, was summoned back to court to answer further questions by Nair. The detective, who had been on the ropes under cross-examination on Wednesday, fared little better this time, admitting a "lack of urgency" in seeking phone or financial records.
Roux, who had been Botha's tormentor, then summed up his case. "The poor quality of the evidence presented by chief investigating officer Botha exposed disastrous shortcomings in the state's case," he told the court. "We cannot sit back and take comfort that he is telling the truth."
He said Botha was determined to "bolster the state's case", but could not refute the double-amputee runner's account that when he shot model Reeva Steenkamp, 29, it was because he believed her to be a burglar.
Roux also raised the issue of intent, saying the killing was not "pre-planned", and referred to a "loving relationship" between the two and, after she was shot, evidence suggesting that Pistorius was desperate to save her life.
He said an autopsy showed that Steenkamp's bladder was empty, suggesting she had gone to use the toilet as Pistorius had claimed. Prosecutors claim Steenkamp had fled to the toilet to avoid an enraged Pistorius.
If Pistorius had shouted about an intruder, he added, it was likely she would have locked the door. "The evidence is not that the applicant knew the toilet was locked when he fired the shots."
But Nel sought to claw back some of the gains the defence had made. As he did so, Pistorius began to weep in the crowded courtroom, prompting Carl to reach out and touch his back. "This [bail hearing] is not the state's onus," Nel began in his summing up. "This is the applicant's onus."
Nel challenged Pistorius's claim that he did not realise Steenkamp was no longer in bed as he rose to investigate the supposed intruder, shouting to her to call the police. "You want to protect her, but you don't even look at her. You don't even ask: 'Reeva, are you all right?' His version is so improbable."
He continued: "His actions are indicative of a man who was willing and ready to kill. There were two people in the house. One survived to give his version.
"He fired four shots, not one shot. The only reason you fire four shots is to kill. On his own version, he's bound to be convicted."
Nel added: "No court will ever accept that the applicant acted in self-defence."
He said signs of remorse from Pistorius do not mean that the athlete had not intended to kill his girlfriend. "Even if you plan a murder, you plan a murder and shoot. If you fire the shot, you have remorse. Remorse might kick in immediately."
Speculating if there could be exceptional circumstances for bail, he said: "'I am Oscar Pistorius. I am a world-renowned athlete.' Is that a special circumstance? No." He said the star wanted to continue with his life "as if this incident never happened ... This total lack of insight and willingness to take responsibility for his deeds increases his flight risk."
He said Pistorius had not given guarantees to the court that he would not leave the country if he was facing a life sentence. Nel also stressed that Pistorius should not be given special treatment.
The court should focus on the "murder of the defenceless woman", Nel added.
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