Pistorius Team Calls Second Witness to Debunk State Shot Expert
Oscar Pistorius’s lawyers called a second expert witness to dispute a state ballistics specialist’s view on Reeva Steenkamp’s position when the athlete shot her as they seek to convince the judge the murder wasn’t premeditated.
“You can’t say with certainty what the position of the deceased was, what time the shots were fired,” Tom “Wollie” Wolmarans told the court in Pretoria today.
Double-amputee Pistorius, 27, has pleaded not guilty to murder and said he thought Steenkamp was an intruder in the bathroom of his house when shot her through a toilet door on Valentine’s Day last year.
Steenkamp was standing when the first hollow-point bullet broke her hip bone, then she fell on top of a magazine rack in the toilet, according to police ballistics expert Chris Mangena. Last month, the defense called Roger Dixon, a professor of geology, to testify on how the model was killed. He never physically touched evidence he gave an opinion on, and he contradicted Pistorius’s version of events.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel says the Paralympic athlete shot Steenkamp after they had an argument. State pathologist Gert Saayman in March testified Steenkamp probably ate two hours before her death. Pistorius has said they went to bed at about 10 p.m. A defense witness today said it was “speculative” to determine the time and size of the last meal.
“In an ideal world, after six hours of fasting after this meal, her stomach should probably have been empty, but there are so many unknowns about possible factors that could’ve delayed gastric emptying that one cannot state it as being a fact,” Christina Lundgren, head of the anesthesia department at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Soweto, told the court. “I would say it would be purely speculative.”
Steenkamp ate a chicken-stirfry dinner from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Feb. 13, which may have contained insoluble fiber that would have delayed gastric emptying, Lundgren said. That evening, Steenkamp had performed yoga exercises, which could delay the process, as does sleep, Lundgren said.
Social worker Yvette van Schalkwyk, who first met Pistorius the day after the shooting, today testified that the athlete was “heartbroken” about the murder.
“I saw a man who was very emotional about the loss of a loved one,” Van Schalkwyk said.
Defense lawyer Barry Roux said May 6 he expects to conclude his case next week at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital. In the remaining days of the trial, Roux must rebuild the defense’s case after the prosecution repeatedly challenged the qualifications of an expert witness who also contradicted Pistorius’s version of the way Steenkamp fell when she was shot.
In his testimony, Pistorius appeared to change his argument from self-defense when he said he fired the gun four times by accident.
The trial, which started on March 3, is being broadcast live on radio and TV. Pistorius has also pleaded not guilty to three gun-related charges.
Judge Thokozile Masipa, who will give the final judgment in the case because South Africa doesn’t have a jury system, could consider a lesser charge of culpable homicide if she rules that the act wasn’t premeditated. Pistorius would face a minimum of 25 years in jail if convicted of premeditated murder.
Nel has sought to undermine the defense’s portrayal of Pistorius as a religious man with a deep fear of crime who was in a loving relationship with Steenkamp. He accused Pistorius of tailoring his testimony to fit in with the evidence.
Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius has been free on 1 million rand ($96,000) bail since February last year.
The charges have derailed the running career of the winner of six Paralympic gold medals and cost Pistorius sponsorship deals with Nike Inc. (NKE), Luxottica Group SpA (LUX)’s Oakley and Ossur hf, the Icelandic company that manufacturers the blades he uses.
Pistorius was the first double amputee to compete at the Olympic Games in London in 2012.
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