Roux closes case, but some witnesses didn’t testify

2014-07-09 00:00

AFTER four months, 39 court days and 37 witnesses, the evidence in the Oscar Pistorius trial has now all been presented.

Advocate Barry Roux, who leads the sprinter’s defence team, closed his case in the Pretoria High Court yesterday morning.

Judge Thokozile Masipa adjourned the case until August 7, when the state and defence will present their closing arguments, which is expected to take two days.

Prosecutor advocate Gerrie Nel will hand in his written heads of argument on July 30 and Roux his on August 4.

Masipa, on a request by Nel, ordered that the closing arguments may not be published in the electronic or print media before they are presented in court.

It has happened in the past that closing arguments have been leaked and published, Nel said.

“Anyone who leaks documents is not only doing a disservice to the judicial process, but is also a thief,” he said.

Roux told Masipa that several defence witnesses declined to testify.

“We were unable to call a number of witnesses because they refused and didn’t want their voices heard all over the world,” Roux said.

There was nothing the defence could do to change their minds, he said.

Roux did not tell the court who those witnesses were.

No witness was obliged to be filmed, and many chose not to be, but all, except the state pathologist, were heard on the audio broadcast live from the court room.

Ulrich Roux, a criminal defence lawyer from Johannesburg, said it seems as if Barry Roux put the refusal of witnesses to appear on record to lay the ground for a potential appeal.

“There’s no other reason why Barry would have put it on record. But it’s really a bit late.

“If the defence felt that it affected the accused’s right to a fair trial, they should have put it on record at the beginning,” he said.

Attorneys and advocates deal daily with people who are reluctant to testify, he said.

“It’s an everyday problem. If it is a high-profile case that is being reported on, other witnesses read the reports and then get scared to testify,” said Ulrich.

A reluctant witness can be subpoenaed to testify, he explained.

“You can apply to the court and say it is in the interests of justice that this person must testify. Then the court calls the person as a witness.”

However, then the lawyer may be dealing with a hostile witness.

“It can blow up in your face. The question is how valuable is the person’s testimony then.”

If the defence tries to use this as a basis for an appeal, it could be rejected, Ulrich said. “The media reports daily on court cases. How is it really different [in this case]?”

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