Oscar's fate hangs in the balance

2014-03-17 13:27
Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius

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Oscar's trial - day 11 lunch report

2014-03-17 13:51

Correspondent Sipho Hlongwane speaks about day 11 of Oscar Pistorius's trial in the North Gauteng High Court. Watch. WATCH

Pretoria - The question of Oscar Pistorius’s guilt or innocence for the killing of Reeva Steenkamp is something that has taken up the public in a great way.

One can scarcely go anywhere without the question being asked.

Judge Thokozile Masipa is still some way away from making up her mind, but we must present a case for or against the athlete’s innocence!

Perhaps it says something about the people’s deep misunderstanding of murder trial and criminal procedure.

During the bail application a year ago, Pistorius’s Advocate Barry Roux did such a devastating job on the investigating officer Hilton Botha that those who feel the athlete is innocent may have felt confident that he would walk free.

But as the trial has progressed, the pendulum has swung in both directions. It’s not very helpful – for the sake of the reporters – that the witnesses are called haphazardly.

There’s no clear picture of the State’s case and its link to the totality of the evidence at the moment.

Under examination, the testimony of neighbours suggested that two distinct screams could be heard that night. Roux tested those theories with each witness and called police work into question once again.

But then the State called Sean Patrick Rens to the stand. He was a firearms provider who sold Pistorius an arsenal of weapons, including an assault rifle and two shotguns.

Even though a competency test was completed, the certificates were never delivered.

Competency test

According to the competency test questions, in order for Pistorius to be allowed to have these guns, he would need to have answered questions about when it was appropriate to use a gun.

He would have had to acknowledge that he couldn’t fire at someone through an object unless he was sure of what was behind that object.

He would have needed to be sure that what he was shooting at was presenting an immediate danger to him.

One of the questions asks: If you see an intruder taking your stuff, and he has a knife, and you are behind a gate, is it fine to shoot? Pistorius answered: “no”.

Rens told a story that Pistorius himself once tweeted about: He went into “code red mode” once when he thought there was an intruder in the house.

It turned out to be a noisy tumble dryer.

Hollow-point bullets

The point of Rens’s testimony then starts to fit into the State’s story - as a gun owner, Pistorius would have been trained in handling and using it properly.

Firing it in the air out of a sunroof, or in a restaurant a big no-nos.

But Roux’s cross did its own work too – unlike the pathologist Dr Gert Saayman who testified last week, Rens said that the “black talon” hollow-point ammunition that Pistorius used was “less lethal” for self-defence.

Saayman said that the bullets in question were designed to mushroom upon impact, and deliver as much of the kinetic energy to the surrounding tissue material as possible.

Also testifying on Monday morning was Warrant Officer Barendt van Staden who photographed the crime scene extensively a few hours after Steenkamp’s death.

On top of the evidence that we already know about, there appears to have been scuffs or bullet marks on the bedroom door, and blood spatters on the bed.

The pictures of the toilet showed how terrible Steenkamp’s last moments must have been: She was stuck in a tiny cubicle, and bled profusely into the toilet.

Once those bullets starting flying in, she had nowhere to run.

Read more on:    reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  barry roux  |  thokozile masipa  |  pistorius trial  |  crime

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