Roux's 7 steps to cross-examination

2014-03-17 21:13
Oscar Pistorius defence advocate Barry Roux. (Picture: AFP)

Oscar Pistorius defence advocate Barry Roux. (Picture: AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Pretoria - Oscar Pistorius's defence lawyer Barry Roux has set his murder trial alight with bruising questioning of State witnesses, but behind the bluster lie a few basic, long-used techniques of cross-examination.

Unearth inconsistencies

No matter how irrelevant or esoteric, Roux is quick to pounce on any inconsistencies in a witness's own testimony or compared to that of others.

Whatever the specific issue, the aim is the same - to discredit the witness.

"Did you hear three gunshots or two-or-three gunshots?"

Do you really know what you know?

Vagueness in testimony is equally seized upon in Roux's cross-examination.

If a witness lacks an accurate recollection about one thing, perhaps they can't be sure of anything.

Question authority

Roux has tried to lessen the impact of potentially damaging expert witnesses by proving they are a little less expert than might be assumed.

Police forensics expert Gerhard Vermeulen has three decades of experience, but we now know he has never done a course on examining tool marks.

Flip the witness

One key aim of cross-examination is to use state witnesses against the State.

Roux has arguably had less success with this tactic than he has with discrediting witnesses, but his questioning led Vermeulen to admit Pistorius first shot through his bathroom door then hit it with a cricket bat - backing the sprinter's timeline of events.

Prove bias

Some witnesses appeared to show bias against Pistorius during cross-examination, which could jeopardise their testimony's validity.

State witness Michelle Burger angrily questioned Pistorius's version of events when Roux probed her memory of hearing screams.

He also insinuated forensic expert Vermeulen investigated evidence that only supported the state's argument.

Unnerve the witness

Roux used interruptions or apparently unrelated requests to unsettle witnesses.

He often used "No, my question is different" and "I am making a different point", and once even asked for a witness's phone records.

He goes further than he might in countries with jury trials, where such badgering would be counterproductive.


Roux's linguistic gymnastics often spun witnesses' testimony in his favour.

"What do you remember today?" Roux asked one witness, implying they remembered differently before.

He also made much of witnesses testifying in their second language and using words apparently in the wrong context.

Roux was scathing after police forensic expert Vermeulen said he did not "bother" to probe a certain mark on the bathroom door.

Read more on:    oscar pistorius  |  barry roux  |  crime  |  pistorius trial

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

SHARE: publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Competition regulation for a growing and inclusive economy

ADVERTORIAL: The Competition Commission of South Africa is conducting advocacy work in the South African automotive aftermarket industry and has gazetted a Draft Code of Conduct for public comment.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.