Nel casts doubt on Pistorius’ defence witnesses

2014-10-13 19:00

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel tried to discredit two of the witnesses called by Oscar Pistorius’ defence during sentencing procedures.

Barry Roux, for Pistorius, called three witnesses today – the athlete’s psychologist Dr Lore Hartzenberg, his manager Petrus van Zyl, and correctional services department social worker Mashaba Joel Maringa.

Under cross-examination from Nel in the North Gauteng High Court, Hartzenberg admitted that she cried in court while Pistorius was testifying.

“I was emotional once, I cried in court,” she said.

“I was emotional once when he was required to take off his prosthesis.”

On September 12, Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide for the Valentine’s Day 2013 shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his Pretoria townhouse. The court found him not guilty of murdering Steenkamp.

Hartzenberg said negative media coverage of Pistorius’s trial destroyed his attempts to heal from the trauma of Steenkamp’s death.

“His opportunity for healing was destroyed by the malevolent media reports and public comments,” said Hartzenberg.

Reading from a prepared report, the pages of which seemed to tremble in her hands at times, a silver-haired and bespectacled Hartzenberg said Pistorius had still not reached acceptance and healing in his grieving process.

Nel failed to get an answer from Hartzenberg on whether a new girlfriend would have affected the paralympian’s emotional state after Steenkamp’s death.

“I find it very strange that you’re avoiding this question,” said Nel.

“If he met somebody, would that have impacted on his emotions? Your opinion please.”

She replied: “We never discussed it. We don’t know what that relationship entailed.”

Roux objected to Nel’s referring to the media report about the new girlfriend.

“The State must bring evidence. It’s reported in a newspaper.”

During cross-examination of Maringa, Nel said the mere suggestion that Pistorius should be sentenced to three years of correctional supervision was “shocking”.

“To even suggest three years is shockingly inappropriate in this matter,” he said.

Maringa had earlier presented a report for the defence that Pistorius get correctional supervision and 16 hours of community service a month for killing Steenkamp.

During questioning Nel discovered that Maringa had a tenuous grasp of Judge Thokozile Masipa’s judgment.

Pistorius had claimed he thought there was a burglar in his toilet when he fired four shots through the locked door in the early hours of February 14 last year, killing Steenkamp. The State had argued he killed her during an argument.

Nel put it to Maringa that Pistorius shot four times through the door.

“He fired into the ground,” replied Maringa.

“You’re totally wrong,” Nel told him, indicating that Maringa was referring to the Tasha’s shooting.

Masipa found him guilty of discharging a firearm in public, when he shot from his friend Darren Fresco’s Glock pistol under a table at Tasha’s restaurant in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, in January 2013.

Nel referred to the judgment that Pistorius armed himself and made his way down the passage to his bathroom with the intention to shoot.

Maringa said he understood that Pistorius had not intended to shoot.

“How can you base your report on a misreading of the judgment? You’re wrong,” Nel told him.

Defending his report, Maringa said correctional supervision was “as harsh as any sentence”.

Van Zyl told the court about Pistorius’s involvement with various charities and that the athlete was planning to retire in 2017. He said Pistorius lost all his endorsements after the shooting.

Nel asked for an early adjournment to go over the documents Van Zyl handed to the court.

Masipa adjourned the case until tomorrow morning.

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