Nel vs Pistorius: SA’s biggest legal battle yet

2014-03-03 00:00

THE biggest legal battle yet seen in South Africa starts today: Gerrie Nel versus Oscar Pistorius.

The world will be watching when the Paralympic hero is in the dock of court D in the Pretoria high court, determined to convince the court he accidentally shot Reeva Steenkamp.

Nel, one of South Africa’s best state prosecutors, will be equally determined to prove to the court that Pistorius is guilty of cold-blooded murder.

Pistorius, or the “Blade Runner” as he is known across the world, is synonymous with perseverance, strength and victory.

Advocate Nel is known as the bulldog, the fearless prosecutor who does not let go once he has bitten, who does not stop until he has revealed the full truth. “Gerrie is one of the country’s best prosecutors,” said advocate Vusi Pikoli, former national director of Public Prosecutions and himself well known for his courage, independence and integrity.

“Gerrie is fearless, exact and very thorough with cross-examination. I have a lot of respect for him, I have full confidence in him,” Pikoli said.

Professor Dawie de Villiers, head of the criminal law and procedure department at the University of Johannesburg, confirmed it, adding Nel “does not take short cuts”.

In Pistorius’s corner is advocate Barry Roux SC, one of the country’s top criminal advocates. With Nel and Roux, “both thorough people”, the trial will be longer rather than shorter, De Villiers said.

If Roux and his team decide to let Pistorius testify, Nel’s cross-examination of him will be the climax of the trial.

Criminal law attorney Marius du Toit earlier said he cannot see how Pistorius could not testify. And when Nel takes Pistorius under cross-examination, he will have a full arsenal of the state’s forensic evidence to back his questions.

Stephen Tuson, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand Law School, said the expert witnesses will play an important role in the trial.

“The only issue in dispute, is what Pistorius was thinking when he shot Steenkamp,” said Tuson.

And the test for this will largely be the forensic evidence. The state will rely heavily on it to prove that Pistorius’s version — that he thought he was shooting at an intruder — is nonsense.

Beeld has reliably learned that the toilet door through which Pistorius fired four rounds, is the most important piece of forensic evidence.

The state has also prepared an analysis of Pistorius’s anatomy, which could be presented with the ballistic evidence in court.

Apart from the forensic and expert evidence, there will also be testimony from his ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor, his neighbour Estelle van der Merwe and his friend Darren Fresco. From what could be ascertained, the state will only decide today who its main witness will be.

Pistorius’s uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said at the weekend the family love Oscar, believe in him and will stand by him throughout the trial.

• For more on the

trial see page 4

The State will argue:

1. Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp had a fight during which their screaming could be heard by the neighbours.

2. Steenkamp locked herself in the toilet to get away from the fighting.

3. Pistorius followed her to the bathroom and fired four shots through the toilet door, before dropping his pistol.

4. He bashed open the toilet door from outside.

5. He carried Steenkamp downstairs where two security officers were already waiting.

6. The front door of the house was not locked.

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