Nel — the bulldog of cross examination

2014-04-08 00:00

IN spite of his slender frame, prosecutor Gerrie Nel yesterday showed why he’s known as a bulldog of cross examination.

Advocate Nel didn’t spare pathologist Professor Jan Botha, putting it to the doctor that his evidence was tailored to suit the defence.

“I don’t want to do it to you, but you did testify that,” he told him.

“Nonsense,” a red-faced Botha strenuously reacted.

“I am here to support the court and not to win or lose the case,” he said.

“I doubt that,” Nel responded.

In these moments, Nel stood with his hand on his hip, elbow on the podium, his spectacles dangling from one hand.

Nel accused Botha of testifying as it suited him.

“First you testify about ballistic factors; when I question you about that, you’re not a ballistic expert … now you’re a ballistic expert again?” he said.

Botha, who is in private practice and said he has conducted more than 25 000 postmortem examinations, said repeatedly that he was not a ballistic expert, but that he could, from experience, express a reasonable opinion on Reeva Steenkamp’s wounds.

The pathologist was forced to make several concessions, the most significant that his analysis of the order of the shots that caused the wounds could be incorrect.

Botha said he based his deductions on the “absence of blood spatter on the toilet wall”.

But during cross examination, Nel showed him photos of blood spatter against the wall.

“Yes, I see that there are blood spatters,” Botha said.

After Nel asked him to examine a close-up photo of a surface wound on Steenkamp’s back, Botha was forced to concede that she might have fallen on top of the magazine rack next to the toilet, instead of against it, as he had testified.

He agreed that Steenkamp was shot first in the hip, then in the arm and finally in the head.

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