The defense scored some points today as the former police colonel, G.S. Van Rensburg, was on the stand. Rensburg described several problems that came up including a detective handling the gun without gloves, one of Pistorius’s watches went missing, and the bathroom door was supposed to have been bagged and sent to his office. Rensburg had to resign from the force in December for mishandling the door after 30 years as an officer. Roux (defense lawyer) also brought up the statements of three police officers whose accounts differed with Rensburg’s. When prosecutor Gerrie Nel ran through some photos Pistorius kept his head down.
Testimony continued with the pathologist today who continued to speak on the autopsy. He also confirmed that Reeva would have been able to scream after the first two bullets. She also had eaten two hours earlier- this is not in line with what Pistorius claims.
Most of today we heard from a friend of Pistorius, Darren Fresco, who went over the occasions when Pistorious fired his gun. He spoke about the incident where Pistorius shot through the roof after the police stopped him and handled his gun. Fresco claimed that Pistorius was ‘furious about it, that someone else had touched his gun.’ He also testified about the gun incident in the restaurant where Pistorius shot the gun and asked him to take the blame. Later the defense got on Fresco for using Twitter and possibly listening to previous testimony.
On day six of the trial Oscar Pistorius became ill as he listened to the pathologist, Gert Saayman, describe Reeva Steenkamps’ wounds. Pistorius also covered his ears and put his head in his hands throughout the testimony. The judge had to stop the trial at one point because of his retching. Saayman concluded that three of the four wounds could have been fatal and were immediately incapacitating.
Earlier today the defense tried to press the security guard about his statement from Friday where he claimed Pistorius said ‘Everything’s fine’ after the shooting. Barry Roux said that Pistorius had said “I’m fine.” Baba (the security guard) was adamant that what he said was the truth. He added that he heard Pistorius crying and knew everything was not ‘fine.’
Some points were made for the prosecution today. Here’s the rundown:
The first witness, Samantha Taylor, brought up several occasions where Pistorius brandished his gun. (Pistorius has several gun charges as well as the murder charge). One time it was after he was stopped for speeding. Apparently he was mad at the police officer so after he drove away he shot the gun through his sunroof. He also woke her up at least two times during the niight because of a noise and got out his gun. This is important because Pistorius admits he did not wake Reeva up or check the bed before shooting her in the bathroom. She also countered the defense when she said he does NOT scream like a girl. Samantha broke up with Pistorius because of his temper and his roving eye (he cheated on her).
The second witness, a security guard named Pieter Baba, said Pistorius called him after the shooting and was too upset to talk, so he called him back and then he said: “Security, everything is fine.” This was about 10 minutes after he shot and killed Reeva.
Today the primary testimony was from a Doctor Johan Stipp, a neighbor who heard the shots and ran to see what had happened. He found Pistorius there praying for Reeva to live. The Doctor recalled that Pistorius said: “I shot her, I thought she was a burglar and I shot her.” The Doctor also testified that he was surprised there was no ambulance there and that none had been called. (I believe Pistorius called a friend instead!) In court Pistorius covered his ears when the Doctor told of Reeva’s wounds. Defense attorney Barrie Roux got the Doctor to say that Reeva could not have screamed after these injuries from the gunshots, but the prosecution pointed out that she could have screamed after the first shot (the prosecution has determined the fourth shot was the fatal one). The defense is trying to claim the screams were Pistorius and that he ‘screams like a girl.’
Also on the stand today was the husband of the first witness, another neighbor, Charl Johnson. Roux grilled him about notes he wrote regarding what he and his wife heard that night. For more:
The defense continued to try to rattle the first witness, neighbor Michelle Burger, without success. She stuck to her story that she heard a woman’s screams then gunshots. Her boyfriend testified to the same thing which the defense said was too close to the same story as the girlfriend. The girlfriend pointed out that they indeed heard the same thing- they were together. Burger’s husband, Chari Johnson, said he heard the screams then the shots. “I heard the lady scream again and the last scream faded moments after the last gunshot.” Another neighbor said she was awoken by loud voices. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel read from an expert’s report that the fourth shot was the fatal shot to Reeva’s head. At that point Pistorius clutched his head in his hands. For more on today’s testimony and some background on this case see the link below.
As most of you are aware Oscar Pistorius (the Blade Runner) is on trial in South Africa for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Michelle Burgar, a neighbor, was the only witness today. She testified to hearing gunshots and “petrifying” screams from a female. The defense attorney, Barry Roux, tried to get her to say the screams could have been Pistorius but she said she heard two distinct voices. Regarding the gunshots Roux tried to get her to say they may have been the sound of a bat breaking down the bathroom door but she insisted it was gunshots. I have attached a link to a great article outlining the entire case below.
The Oscar Pistorius trial begins this week and it looks like it could be a long one. The opening and closing arguments will be live as well as expert testimony and the final judgement. This is a first in South Africa. The judge said he wanted the people to see that money and fame will not affect the outcome of this trial. The witness testimony (including Pistorius, should he decide to testify) will have audio only. The players include the following:
- The judge is a woman: Thokozile Matilda Masipa, a former crime reporter who made headlines in 1998 when she became the second black woman to be appointed to the high court. She has a history of firm judgments in crimes against women. There are no jury trials in South Africa so the judge will render the final decision.
- Pistorius has a strong legal team: Barry Roux is the primary lawyer with more than 30 years’ experience. He was able to destroy the police case at the bail hearing so that the man in charge of the investigation, Hilton Botha, was removed from the case. Roux charges about $6,000 a day.
- Kenny Oldwageis another of his lawyers. He is famous in South Africa for defending Sizwe Mankazana, a man who drove the car that killed Nelson Mandela’s 13-year-old great-granddaughter. That man was aquitted.
- The defense also has many expert witnesses, they even spoke to Henry Lee (according to Lee), famous for defending OJ Simpson. An expert team from the U.S. will reconstruct the crime scene. There is also a geologist on board.
- The lead prosecutor is Gerrie Nel, a very serious lawyer who won a corruption conviction against a South African police chief- Jackie Selebi. Selebi was also head of Interpol.
- The lead detective is Vinesh Moonoo, a father of two who is the top cop in South Africa.
- There are over 100 people on the witness list. Included are Pistorius’ former girlfriend, friends who support him and friends who do not support him, people he has verbally abused and threatened physically and many more. I am looking forward to the Security Guard who called Pistorius right after the shooting to ask if everything was alright and Pistorius said: “Yes.”
For premeditated murder the sentence is life (25 years) in South Africa. If found not guilty on this charge he could still get culpable homicide and face 15 years.
Here are my sources: