Nel tears into professor in Oscar case

By admin
03 July 2014

Gerrie Nel questioned whether Wayne Derman, Oscar Pistorius' physician, was an expert witness or a character witness.

It was a battle between two hard nuts in the High Court in Pretoria this morning when the bulldog took on the Paralympic team doctor.

Murder-accused Oscar Pistorius's physician was possibly biased while testifying in the Paralympian's defence in the High Court in Pretoria, the state said on Thursday.

"What was your brief?" prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked sports and exercise medicine professor at the University of Cape Town, Wayne Derman.

"To detail my experience with Oscar Pistorius and to detail my observations with him and anything that might be relevant..." he told the court.

"Isn't that the work of a character witness [and] not an expert witness?" Nel asked.

Nel said Derman's evidence was not that of an expert witness, as the professor had described himself.

Nel said as Pistorius's doctor Derman was bound by the Health Professions Council of SA's regulations to act in his patient's best interest.

"Is that what you're doing now?" Nel asked.

"I believe so," Derman replied. Nel said if Derman were to be objective, his testimony could harm his patient. "I disagree. I am not going to come before court [with] a biased report because I have been very careful to back up my report."

'I am not going to come before court [with] a biased report'

When asked if he would give evidence against Pistorius, Derman said: "I'm under oath, I have to provide the truth and that is what I'll do."

At times Derman appealed to judge Thokozile Masipa for help when Nel aggressively questioned him. Once it was to force the state prosecutor to withdraw a statement, which he did.

On another occasion he told Masipa he didn't understand Nel's line of questioning, to which Masipa replied that it shouldn't be a worry to him. On yet another occasion Derman had an argument with Masipa over Nel's manner of cross-examination. When Masipa later remained silent Derman looked at Gerrie and said, "Let's go on; sorry, Mr Nel." Nel's answer was that he should address the court.

From the beginning Nel got under Derman's skin when he began his questioning by creating doubt about whether Derman was an expert witness.

Pistorius' murder trial is the first in which Derman has given evidence. Derman said he was here to convey to the court his experiences of having known Oscar for the past six years, as well as his knowledge of the disabled and the obstacles they face.

Derman had trouble answering some of Nel's questions and Nel repeatedly said an expert would be able to answer them.

Nel continued his cross-examination after lunch.

- Hilda Fourie & SAPA

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