Oscar Pistorius stood for his entire 15-minute court hearing today, staring straight ahead, hands clasped in front of him and giving away little emotion as the world got its first close up view of the double-amputee Olympian and murder suspect in nearly four months.
It was a stark contrast to the sobbing figure Pistorius presented through much of his bail hearing in February. Magistrate Daniel Thulare postponed the proceedings in Pretoria Magistrate's Court until August 19 to allow police to complete their investigation into the Valentine's Day shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp. The delay underscores that the trial will be a slow process, with a verdict possibly not coming until next year.
The extension was sought by the prosecution, giving investigators six months to gather evidence, interview witnesses and prepare a case against the 26-year-old athlete. Pistorius' lead defense lawyer Barry Roux agreed with the postponement, and said they could start to deal with "pre-trial" issues in the high-profile case on the August date.
Pistorius' trial is not expected to start before September, at the earliest, and is likely to be conducted at the High Court in Pretoria. The Paralympic champion is charged with premeditated murder in the killing of his girlfriend.
The athlete known as the Blade Runner because of his prosthetic running legs spoke just once during today's hearing. "Yes, your honor," he said in a voice which croaked at first but which also had an air of newfound composure, when Thulare asked him if he understood that he was released on the same bail conditions and must reappear at the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on August 19.
Pistorius has said he killed Steenkamp by mistake in the early hours of Feb. 14, believing she was an intruder in his home. Prosecutors allege he shot her intentionally as she cowered in a toilet stall and that the couple may have argued before she was shot.
The magistrate also warned today of "scandalous and possibly contemptuous" reporting by some media in Pistorius' case following the publication of pictures by a British television station last week that purport to show the blood-spattered bathroom where Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp, firing his pistol four times through the closed door of the stall and hitting his girlfriend with three bullets.
Prosecutors didn't outline which areas of the police investigation were still ongoing, and the National Prosecuting Authority said police hope to complete the probe by August.
"The investigation is continuing and we believe by August, or even before August, we will have wrapped up everything," prosecution spokesman Medupe Simasiku said. "As soon as everything is completed the court will announce a trial date."
Simasiku said the prosecution was still "standing on a premeditated murder charge" and could not say yet if any more charges might be introduced.
Making his first public appearance since he was freed on bail from the same courtroom on February 22, Pistorius again passed in front of rows of television cameras and photographers as he entered Court C shortly before 9am local time. He arrived at the court in an SUV with black blinds covering the windows, but used the main public entrance to the courthouse and not the back entrance he arrived at during his four-day bail hearing.
Since he was freed on bail, there had been just two reported sightings of Pistorius in public ahead of Tuesday.
Other than that, he has been living in self-imposed isolation, his family says, surrounding himself with memories of Steenkamp, sometimes growing a beard to disguise his identity and only occasionally leaving his uncle's house to attend church services.
No longer a smiling global sports star seen on ads ranging from Nike to Oakley, or the figure who struggled to control his emotions during bail proceedings, Pistorius is now a man with a determination to fight the murder charge against him, according to his uncle, Arnold Pistorius.
"He's battling. But with the family behind him, his sister living in the same house as he lives ... they assist him a lot," Arnold Pistorius said in excerpts from an interview given to a South African television show and released by the family Sunday. "And we are preparing him. He will definitely be ready. Being the mind that he is, being the man that he is, he will know what it's going to take to do this event."
Pistorius didn't comment to reporters Tuesday but spoke briefly with his sister, Aimee, and kissed another family member as he left the dock.