Now he spoke to Reeva

2014-03-08 00:00

FIRST he didn’t say a word about an early-morning chat to Reeva Steenkamp. Now Oscar Pistorius says they spoke shortly before he shot her.

In the affidavit Pistorius handed in at his bail application a year ago, he told how he and Steenkamp went to bed that night, how he woke up in the early hours and got up to bring a fan in from the balcony and how he then heard a noise in the bathroom.

But the plea explanation he handed in on Monday contains new information that wasn’t in his first statement.

“During the early hours of the morning, I brought in two fans from the balcony. I had shortly before spoken to Reeva, who was in bed beside me.”

That is a big difference, says Barry Hurter, a criminal law expert and Johannesburg attorney.

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

In the first statement, he doesn’t specify what sound he heard from the bathroom. In the plea explanation he says he “heard the bathroom window sliding open”.

“Unbeknown to me Reeva must have gone to the toilet in the bathroom at the time when I brought in the fans, closed the sliding doors, the blinds and the curtains,” the recent statement reads.

“I heard the bathroom window sliding open. I believed that an intruder or intruders had entered the bathroom through the bathroom window, which was not fitted with burglar bars.”

The state will probably use the difference in regard to the chat to Steenkamp, said Hurter.

Criminal lawyer Marius du Toit agrees. “They will undoubtedly use it.”

Hurter said the defence will probably say there was an oversight in the bail statement, which has now been corrected.

When an accused makes a statement during a bail application, he is warned by the magistrate that it will be used later in his trial.

Advocate Piet Pistorius, a criminal law practitioner, said if there are such discrepancies, the accused will get the chance to explain them when he testifies.

The court will then decide if there is a contradiction, says Pistorius.

The court looks at the accused’s explanation and assesses what weight the contradiction should bear, if there is a contradiction.

“Not all contradictions are equally important,” says Pistorius.

“A contradiction can have an effect on the determination of someone’s credibility.”

According to Piet du Plessis, another criminal lawyer, in this case it could be an addition rather than a contradiction. “The one statement just has more detail than the other.”

Du Toit says: “One must always differentiate between a fundamental contradiction and bona fide differences between the statements. Pistorius will give an explanation and time will tell if it is bona fide.”

The difference between the affidavit handed in as part of a bail application, and the plea explanation, is that the former is court testimony, because it is part of the record, and the latter is not.

“But he can be cross-examined with regard to what is in both … Naturally, [prosecutor] Gerrie Nel will tackle him on it and see if he can explain it logically,” says Du Plessis.

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