Oscar changes his story

2014-03-10 14:18

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At first he didn’t say a word about an early morning conversation with Reeva Steenkamp. Now he claims they spoke shortly before he had shot her.

In Oscar Pistorius’ affidavit submitted last year at his bail application, he describes how he and Steenkamp went to sleep that evening, how he woke up in the early hours of the morning and then got up to bring the fan in before he heard a noise in the bathroom.

But in his explanation of plea submitted to the court when his trial began on Monday, there is new information that was not in his initial affidavit. In this statement, he says he spoke to Steenkamp shortly before he got up to bring the two fans in.

“In the early hours, I brought two fans in from the balcony.

“Shortly before that, I spoke to Reeva who was next to me in bed,” the explanation of plea reads.

There’s a big difference, says Barry Hurter, a criminal law expert and attorney in Johannesburg.

The state can now cross-examine Pistorius about this difference when he testifies.

There are also two other differences. In the affidavit, Pistorius speaks of “the fan”, but in the explanation of plea of “two fans”.

In the affidavit he does not specify what sound he heard in the bathroom, and in the explanation of plea he says it was the sound of the window sliding open.

“Reeva must have gone to the toilet when I brought the fans in, closed the sliding doors and drew the blinds and curtains.

“I heard the bathroom window sliding open.

“I believed that a burglar or burglars had entered the bathroom through the bathroom window,” the explanation of plea reads.

The state will probably use the difference regarding the conversation with Steenkamp against Pistorius, Hurter said.

Marius du Toit, criminal law attorney, agrees: “They will definitely use it.”

According to Hurter, the defence might argue that it was an oversight in the bail statement that is now being set right in the explanation of plea.

When an accused gives a statement for his bail application, he is warned by the magistrate that it can be used later in his trial.

Advocate Piet Pistorius, a criminal law practitioner, says if there are such differences, the accused will be given the opportunity to explain them when he testifies. The court will then determine whether there is a contradiction, he says. “Not all contradictions are equally important,” Advocate Pistorius said.

According to Piet du Plessis, another criminal law attorney, in this case it could be seen as a further explanation rather than a contradiction.

“The statement simply has a bit more detail than the other.”

Du Toit agrees: “One must always distinguish between real contradictions and bona fide differences between statements.”

The difference between an affidavit submitted during a bail application and an explanation of plea is that the former is evidence in the trial because it is part of the case record and the latter isn’t.

“But he can be cross-examined regarding what is said in both,” Du Plessis said.

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