Pistorius Defense Lays Out Final Case Against Murder ConvictionPaul Burkhardt and Andre Janse van Vuuren
The defense in Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial presents its final argument against the prosecution case that the Paralympian deliberately fired when he killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.
Defense attorney Barry Roux yesterday told the High Court in Pretoria, the capital, that the state “must show that the proven facts only justify one inference and that it excludes all other reasonable inferences.” The prosecution is “unable to deal with material objective evidence” that shows other possibilities of what could have happened.
Pistorius, 27, has pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder. He has said he thought Steenkamp was an intruder when he fired four shots through a locked toilet cubicle door in a bathroom at his home. He later said he discharged the weapon in reaction to hearing a sound. The prosecution says he killed her after an argument. The athlete would face a minimum of 25 years in jail if convicted of murder.
“We say that the tailoring of evidence must have a domino effect,” prosecutor Gerrie Nel said as he presented his final arguments yesterday, outlining the main discrepancies in the athlete’s testimony. “If one piece of the mosaic is moved, the rest have to move as well to keep the picture intact. What I’m trying to indicate to you” is “the domino effect of lies,” he said.
Pistorius’s version is that he fired upon hearing the sound in the bathroom, with Steenkamp standing upright and facing the door, which was directly in front of her, Nel said.
She then fell on top of a magazine rack in the toilet, police ballistics expert Chris Mangena said in March. It was “physically impossible for her to have caused the movement” that would create any sound before the first shot, Nel said. “We argue that there was no sound or startle,” he said. “It was just the accused firing four shots through the door with the direct intention to kill.”
Even if Judge Thokozile Masipa accepts that Pistorius acted in self-defense, the state argues the athlete “can’t escape” a finding “at the very least” of intent through the legal concept of “dolus eventualis,” where he foresaw the possibility that he may shoot and kill someone, Nel said.
“He had lots of time for reflection,” the prosecutor said. “He made up his mind in the bedroom where he armed himself. I don’t know when he armed himself, but he made up his mind. That, my lady, is pre-planning, not pre-planning for months, but at least when I arm myself and I plan to kill and I get there and I kill, then I planned it.”
Throughout the trial that started on March 3 and is now in its 41st day, defense lawyer Roux has portrayed Pistorius as a victim of crime who was in a loving relationship with Steenkamp.
Prosecutor Nel depicted Pistorius as a short-tempered gun-lover who shot Steenkamp in a fit of rage.
The athlete has also pleaded not guilty to three separate gun-related charges.
Judge Masipa, who will give the final judgment in the case because South Africa doesn’t have a jury system, could also consider a lesser charge of culpable homicide if she rules that the act wasn’t intentional.
Masipa may take a month to return a verdict, Du Toit said. “It might take even longer,” he said. “Because of the importance of this case, we might get back in a month or two.”
Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius has been free on 1 million rand ($93,000) bail since February last year.
The athlete and his cousin were involved in an altercation at a nightclub in the wealthy northern Johannesburg suburb of Sandton last month when they were approached by a man who “aggressively interrogated him” about the murder trial, spokeswoman Anneliese Burgess said on July 14. An argument ensued and Pistorius soon left the club, she said.
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 manufactures the blades he uses.
Pistorius was the first double amputee to compete at the Olympic Games in London in 2012.