South Africa: Oscar Judgment in September

Oscar Pistorius, the once-celebrated athlete who fatally shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, is seen at the Pretoria High Court on Thursday, 7 August 2014 ahead of the final arguments of his murder trial.

Pretoria — Judge Thokozile Masipa will hand down judgment on murder-accused Oscar Pistorius next month, she said on Friday after his defence team concluded its final arguments.

“We shall be back here on the 11th of September at 9.30am,” she said after hearing closing arguments from defence lawyer Barry Roux in the High Court in Pretoria.

The paralympic athlete was charged with murder following the fatal shooting of his girlfriend model and law-graduate Reeva Steenkamp.

He shot her through a locked toilet door at his Pretoria home on Valentines Day last year. He claimed he mistook her for an intruder.

Pistorius’s defence team has submitted that the “Blade Runner” felt vulnerable and anxious as he was not wearing his prosthetic legs at the time.

In the four-month long trial, his past relationships, social conduct and mental state were placed under scrutiny, with Pistorius also undergoing a 30-day mental observation.

In the final lap of the proceedings this week, the defence and the prosecution delivered final arguments.

“My lady, he knew it was a human being in the toilet. His intention was to kill a human being,” prosecutor Gerrie Nel said, arguing that the defence’s contention that he did not intend killing Steenkamp was invalid.

Nel said that if Pistorius “shot into a cubicle well-knowing there is a human being in there, then he is guilty of murder. My lady, if someone shoots to kill then there must be consequences.”

Roux, for Pistorius, said the State’s version that the athlete made up the fact that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he shot her was not true.

Roux said Pistorius told the first people who arrived on the scene that he thought it was an intruder.

“He repeated that and went into the bail application before seeing the docket. So on what basis are you saying that he is lying?” Roux said.

Roux said numerous times on Friday that Pistorius was negligent but that he did not intend to shoot Steenkamp.

“That is culpable homicide… That is what the case should have been about…”

Ballistic experts, a psychologist, police photographers and Pistorius’s neighbours who claimed to have heard screams, noises and gunshots coming from his home were among those who had testified in the trial.

Other than the murder charge, Pistorius also faces three contraventions of the Firearms Control Act, one of illegal possession of ammunition and two of discharging a firearm in public.

Pistorius allegedly fired a shot from a Glock pistol under a table at a Johannesburg restaurant in January 2013.

On September 30, 2012 he allegedly shot through the open sunroof of a car with his 9mm pistol while driving with his then girlfriend, Samantha Taylor and his former friend Darren Fresco in Modderfontein.

He has pleaded not guilty to these charges as well.

During Friday’s proceedings, Roux suggested that the evidence of Taylor and Fresco should not be accepted.

He submitted that Taylor had a motive for wanting to tarnish Pistorius’s name as the pair had broken up. A tearful Taylor had told the court it was because he cheated on her with Steenkamp.

He said Fresco had lied about crucial matters to avoid prosecutions because he was implicated. Roux said the decision to prosecute Fresco lay with the State.

Nel said Pistorius’s defence, provided by his legal team, was so “mutually exclusive that they are mutually destructive”.

The two defences are that if Pistorius fired out of reflex after he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder then he lacked criminal capacity.

However, if there was a thought process it was “putative private defence” because Pistorius thought he was in danger.

On Thursday, Nel described Pistorius as a deceitful and dishonest person, who would rather hide behind untruths than admit he murdered his girlfriend in cold blood.

Nel said Pistorius was an appalling witness who tailored his evidence to avoid prosecution. He dismissed several points of Pistorius’s testimony as improbable and untruthful and called it the proverbial “baker’s dozen”.

However, on Friday Roux dealt with the “baker’s dozen”.

“My lady, if that’s a baker’s dozen then I don’t want to eat those cookies,” Roux said to soft giggles from the public gallery.

Roux said that Pistorius’s actions after Steenkamp was shot were not consistent with a man who was trying to kill his girlfriend.

“Why would he want her to be saved so she can turn around and say this man should be locked up — look what he did to me,” Roux said.

“It’s absolutely inconsistent with a man trying to kill his girlfriend.”

During the trial the court heard that Pistorius carried Steenkamp down the stairs after he broke down the toilet door using a cricket bat. He called neighbours, a hospital and paramedics to help.

Roux accused Nel of being desperate and naughty.

“Mr Nel is desperate. I have a lot of respect for Mr Nel and his experience,” he said.

Roux said Nel submitted evidence in his closing arguments based on an interview on a Pretoria radio station.

He said Nel knew it was wrong and did it because the State lacked evidence to prove their case.

“You cannot quote a radio and say this is evidence… The hole is too big. He had to refer to a radio station,” Roux said.

“The State fetched cases from another jurisdiction… It was to create this atmosphere knowing its deficiencies.”

Roux said that there was no way that the State could not argue that the scene was tampered with.


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