Pistorius Prosecutor Casts Doubt on Ballistics Expert’s EvidenceKevin Crowley and Christopher Spillane
The prosecution in Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial worked to deconstruct the testimony of a ballistics expert called by the defense as the hearing on how the Paralympian killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp nears its end.
Tom “Wollie” Wolmarans, who compiled a report on how the athlete shot the model on Valentine’s Day last year, told Prosecutor Gerrie Nel he may have changed his assessment of the incident after speaking to another witness who had given evidence previously. Nel also cast doubt on Wolmarans’s choice of materials when he replicated the crime scene, saying his use of paper rather than board would have given a better indication of splintering on human skin.
“Another expert may come and have a different opinion,” Wolmarans told the court in Pretoria, the capital. “You can come to a certain conclusion but it’s all speculation as to what happened behind that door.”
Pistorius’s lawyers are attempting to rebuild his defense, saying that he fired at Steenkamp thinking she was an intruder in the bathroom of his house.
The prosecution today flashed lasers through the bullet holes in the toilet door that’s part of a reconstructed cubicle at the court to show the path taken by the ammunition that killed the former model.
Her mother, June, didn’t stay in the court room when Wolmarans gave testimony on how Reeva was shot.
Steenkamp was standing when the first bullet broke her hip bone, then she fell on top of a magazine rack in the toilet, according to police ballistics expert Chris Mangena.
The model’s head wounds were consistent with her falling down, and the two abrasions on her back indicated that she had struck a hard, blunt surface, Wolmarans said. He disagreed with Mangena’s assessment that the back wounds were the result of ricocheting bullet fragments.
Wolmarans said he had met with former police investigator Roger Dixon, who testified about the crime scene last month, for a beer. Before the trial adjourned last month, Dixon was repeatedly challenged by Nel about his qualifications to testify about the crime scene.
“It’s highly improbable that we haven’t had discussions” about the case, Wolmarans said of the meeting with Dixon. When asked by Nel whether he changed evidence after this, Wolmarans said “it’s a possibility that I’ve change anything in my report but not the things that I have discussed with him.” He said he wouldn’t take Dixon’s advice on ballistics given he isn’t an expert in this field.
Double-amputee Pistorius, 27, has pleaded not guilty to murder. Nel has portrayed the Paralympic athlete as a short-tempered gun-lover who shot Steenkamp after they had an argument.
Defense lawyer Barry Roux said May 6 he expects to conclude his case next week. The trial, which started on March 3, is being broadcast live on radio and TV. Pistorius has also pleaded not guilty to three separate 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 intentional. Pistorius would face a minimum of 25 years in jail if convicted of 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., Luxottica Group SpA’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.
He agreed to sell the house where the shooting occurred, Ansie Louw, his real-estate agent said today. The property was valued at 5 million rand, according to Pistorius’s bail-application statement from February last year.