Pistorius Testimony Over, Back to Expert Witnesses

Oscar Pistorius has completed his testimony. The prosecutor picked apart every little detail hoping to show his version of events was not possible. The state is pushing an alternate theory, however, it sounds like it's nothing more than "it might have happened this way." He didn't get Oscar to admit that any of the elements of his theory were correct. The state's theory is predicated on an argument between the couple, and given Oscar's denial and the lack of any other witnesses present, I don't see how the theory can be considered proved in any way, let alone by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Here is the state's version, succinctly put on Twitter by reporter Barry Bateman, who has been in the courtroom every day:

A recap of the state's case as we understand it so far: Oscar and Reeva had an argument. She packed her bag to leave. There was perhaps a tussle over the jeans, which landed up on the floor. Oscar went for his handgun. Reeva fled to the bathroom, fearing for her life. Oscar followed screaming "get the f**k out of my house. Reeva locked herself in the toilet with her cellphone. The argument may have continued there for some time. Oscar opened fire, hitting Reeva in the hip. She screamed and fell backwards onto the magazine rack... now realising what he had done, Oscar put his handgun down and went to fetch his bat.

A good example of how the state has nothing more than a theory it has not proven:

Asked by Nel to repeat the exact words he used at the perceived intruders, Pistorius said he screamed at them to "get the (expletive) out my house." ....Nel said Pistorius did use those words, but to Steenkamp in the midst of a fight the prosecution maintains ended with Pistorius shooting his girlfriend multiple times through the door.

Alternative possibilities are not proof. The prosecutor wants the court to infer from the circumstances that its theory, rather than Oscar's version, is the truth. It can't do that without evidence that definitively refutes Oscar's version, and so far I haven't seen any.

What we have is a prosecutor trying to sell a story that might fit with the facts. Oscar stuck to his version. At best, it's a wash, which means Oscar should prevail, since the state hasn't met its burden of proof.

On redirect by Oscar's lawyer, which was very short, Oscar clarified what he meant by saying on cross it was an accident. He didn't consciously decide to shoot, it was a reflexive response to hearing a noise inside the bathroom.

I don't think the prosecutor came through on his promise to show Oscar’s version is a lie.

Some minor details that came out yesterday: Photos showed the jeans both inside out and right-side in, meaning someone changed them. Reeva had access to a remote alarm in the bathroom. An expert confirmed Oscar's statement that the light in the bathroom was not working. Reeva gave Oscar a Valentine's Day card that read "Roses are red, violets are blue. 'I think today is a good day to tell you that I love you."

The defense is now putting on an array of expert witnesses who will disagree with the findings of the state's experts.

The trial has a few more weeks to go.

< Monday Night Open Thread
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    One thing is undisputable; (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by NYShooter on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 04:20:38 PM EST
    this was a horrible, horrible, heart rendering tragedy.

    The unnecessary, violent death of an innocent, young lady is made even more disturbing by the fact that there wasn't even a purpose for it, such as would be the case, for instance, in a robbery.

    All deaths are unfortunate, this one just moved me more than most.

    I was watching (none / 0) (#7)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 07:49:51 PM EST
    a show on Investigation Discovery the other day that profiled Reeva's parents. Their grace in handling this situation was just amazing. Amazingly she said she had empathy for Oscar.

    Thank Jeralyn (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Rumpole on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 05:54:22 PM EST
    I must say it's such a relief to just have nel STOP... already.

     I have seen Nel compared to Juan Martinez, but it is one thing for a prosecutor to show passion and aggression when confronting somebody whom he has seen convincing evidence against, and another for a Prosecutor to bully and attack a somewhat vulnerable, and quite possibly truthful, defendant. Nel was unpleasant to watch. Juan Martinez a joy.

     At the end of all that bullying and badgering Nel comes up with a half-baked vague speculation as a State theory. It is actually not even up to the standard of speculation at True Gossip Forums, and that is never up to standing much scrutiny and analysis.

     Anyway, nice to see the Trial back on track with some interesting expert testimony from the Defence side.

     Just as an aside:
    This application my Nel for a 2 week adjournment??
    I imagine the Judge will approve, but I wish she wouldn't. Both sides have wasted time and taken breaks already. I guess one has to allow a defendant to take as much time as he needs, but I see less excuse for the Prosecution. Nel implied one colleague had some other legal matter to attend to, but also hinted the main reason was private commitments (Vacations?). I would love the Judge to rule "No! Mr Nel you can get by without one assistant.. and you can forget vacation plans until you get this trial done." It is not fair to prolong the agony for defendant or others involved. This is a 1st degree Murder Trial, not a Church Picnic.

    The defense has to also get around... (5.00 / 3) (#19)
    by Dadler on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 09:23:29 AM EST
    ...that OP told the first calling responder that everything was okay. The obvious inference is that he was desperately trying to come up with a story to explain what happened. If he'd really accidentally shot her, and thought there COULD be someone in the house still, he would ask for immediate help in a very desperate manner. If he were genuinely in shock, he'd have never answered the phone in the first place. None of his story seems reasonable to me, just doesn't. But I realize it's the job of the defense to be prejudiced in their client's favor, and it's always interesting to hear defense strategies rolled around. Peace to all.

    Roux's re-direct of Pistorious (none / 0) (#3)
    by kookbook on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 06:52:37 PM EST
    The article above points out that "On redirect by Oscar's lawyer, which was very short, Oscar clarified what he meant by saying on cross it was an accident. He didn't consciously decide to shoot, it was a reflexive response to hearing a noise inside the bathroom." Very interesting.  My first and only comment ever to TalkLeft was two nights ago and it suggests exactly that that is what Roux should do on re-direct.  Very coincidental or maybe he reads TalkLeft.  

    The lesser (none / 0) (#4)
    by bmaz on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 06:53:47 PM EST
    The lesser included ( I assume it will be put in play) seems to be the problem. And, assuming it is, it strikes me that it is far too convenient of a hat hook for the court to find. And the sentence is still a potential sledgehammer. Roux was full of manure, but from the recaps I have seen, may have made some headway. Interesting case.

    Isn't the problem (none / 0) (#6)
    by NYShooter on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 07:21:27 PM EST
    that even if there had been an intruder in the bathroom Oscar would  have still been liable for the, seemingly, reckless manner in which he discharged his firearm?

    Since, I assume, the standard for finding guilt, or, not, is about the same in S.A. as it is in the States how far can you stretch the "reasonable man" standard if your defense is, "I thought I heard a noise behind a door, so, my first (reasonable) choice was to blast four 9 mm bullets in rapid succession through it?"


    The Prosecution's Theory is Supported by Evidence (none / 0) (#5)
    by Alexei Schacht on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 07:13:19 PM EST
    The prosecution's theory is supported by evidence, not merely by conjecture, as Jeralyn states. And while that evidence may not be totally compelling it is strong enough (if believed) to warrant a conviction for murder (assuming the statute is similar to ones in the States).

    3 witnesses (Michelle Burger, Charl Johnson and Annette Stipp) all testified to hearing a woman scream before the gunshots.  Maybe they are mistaken or lying but if the jury believes them on this one point then that alone could lead to a fast conviction as it would mean OP is lying about the most important facts - that he thought she was in bed and they had had no fight.

    On top of that, the proof apparently shows that she was standing behind a locked door when the first shot struck her, an odd thing to be doing and one that makes sense if they had been arguing and she locked herself in the bathroom to be away from OP. And while they had many loving WhatsApp messages to each other she also sent him "I'm scared of you sometimes ..."

    In criminal trials such as this one, the defendant's fate rests in the hands of the presiding judge, which in this case is a middle-aged Xhosa woman, Thokozile Masipa. She is being assisted by two assessors, who are themselves judges that serve as her advisors on matters of law, but will have no say over the final verdict. That call will be hers, and hers alone.

    Judge Masipa made a name for herself in legal circles as only the second African woman to ascend to the formerly all-white bench in South Africa back in 1998. She appears to be eminently respected by her peers on the bench and barristers of all races and ethnicities, and by all accounts, most think she's thus far doing an outstanding job presiding over this highly charged trial. She has also compiled a record for coming down quite hard on male defendants accused of abusing or killing women, but we probably should not read too much into that.



    you are welcome to disagree but (none / 0) (#10)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 09:35:09 PM EST
    nothing you cite is evidence of Oscar's intent to kill Reeva, which the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt for the first murder charge.

    AS to the neighbors' testimony about hearing a woman scream, their descriptions of the sequence of shots and screams don't match up, nor do the they match as to number of screams, one was the equivalent of blocks away, and it might have been Oscar they heard. (The defense maintains he screams in a high pitch voice.) Also, some of the witnesses may have confused the sound of the cricket bat hitting the door with sounds of shooting. They did comparison tests. There are several other problems with their testimony as I detailed  here, after watching it live.

    Hearing a scream is not evidence that Oscar intended to kill Reeva. It's evidence from which an inference can be drawn -- or not.

    And there is no jury in this trial, it's a trial by judge with two "assessors" to assist in the factual determinations.

    There is conflicting evidence as to her position in the bathroom.

    Most importantly, the state's argument rests on the premise, of which there is no evidence, that they were fighting before the shot.


    I asked this earlier, in a rather clumsy manner, (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by leftwig on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 08:47:14 AM EST
    but what is the states actual burden in showing OP knowingly shot Reeva?  Clearly she is dead and he is the one that shot her.  Is a completely irrational fear and lack of common sense enough to get you off on a murder charge as long as you don't have visual contact with the person you kill?  I can't imagine the burden for the prosecution is to have an eye witness in the room seeing a fight in order to prove that OP more likely than not knew it was Reeva behind that door.  

    A couple of points I'd like some assistance with.  OP is now saying he "accidentally" shot into the door as he was reacting to a noise of what he thought was someone coming out of the wc.  Since there are no witnesses to dispute it, must this defense be accepted?  Or, is the fact that there were 4 shots fired and that the door was locked enough circumstantial evidence to dispute that claim?  

    Also, I didn't hear this covered in OP's questioning by defense or the prosecution, but has a call timeline been established for when he talked to security or various other individuals?  According to security on site, neighbors called them upon hearing sounds of screaming and shooting.  Security says they called OP who said everthing was OK and that OP called back later and just cried before hanging up.  OP's laywer said security was incorrect and that OP called them first.  Have the call logs established who called whom first and how much time elapsed between the two calls with on site security?  Also, I understand OP called the head of security who was not on site.  Where did that call fit in the timeline?

    Lastly, has a diagram been presented on the forensic evidence of where OP was located when he fired into the wc and what trajectory the 4 shots took?  I believe the prosecution mentioned the shots were fired within 6-10 feet of Reeva and OP seemed to indicate he was further across the room looking around the corner when he heard the noise and started shooting?  I would think establishing this could lend credence to either story presente.

    My take on the evidence so far is that his story is possible, but not very likely.  She was awake when he got out of bed to get the fans.  He never left the bedroom to retreive the fans as they were situated in the doorway between the bedroom and the patio, so he was never out of the bedroom.  He could see well enough to move all of those things around, get his gun and venture down the hallway, but couldn't see well enough to tell whether she was in bed or not?  She was already awake, but he didn't get any response from her while he was getting his gun and yelling out to an intruder and for her to call police?  We are asked to believe his story that security is calling him after he had been banging on the door with the cricket bat and knew at that point that Reeva was the one that was shot, but he tells security that everything is OK and hangs up?


    To add to my list of things to seek (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by leftwig on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 09:50:31 AM EST
    clarification on, here are a couple more.  I finished reading the synopsis above and saw this mentioned, "Reeva had access to a remote alarm in the bathroom."  Where was this remote alarm and did she have access to it in the wc?  Did she use this alarm after hearing OP yell out for her to call police?

    Reeva's phone was found on the bathroom floor.  Was it established whether she had this phone with her in the wc, or was it brought into the bathroom after the shooting?  Did she use the phone in the seconds before the shooting and if so who was called?


    Despite the Prosecution's Overreaching (none / 0) (#9)
    by RickyJim on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 09:01:19 PM EST
    Is there anyone who thinks Culpable Homicide has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt?

    Just a thought (none / 0) (#11)
    by Rumpole on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 09:46:37 PM EST
    IANAL (obviously)

    My (simplistic) view is that the State failed to prove that OP shot KNOWING Reeva was behind the door. And so NOT murder at all.

    OP is "vulnerable" as a double amputee. It is SA where home invasion, rape, torture, murder are well known. Perhaps it is understandable (justifiable?) to react (in self defence) to a perceived intruder?

    Just speculation... one way of viewing things. How would it fly if one considers that OP (in his mind) fired at an intruder, but in effect MISSED and shot Reeva by mistake. An accident?


    The Judge Has to be Convinced (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by RickyJim on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 08:08:23 AM EST
    that Pistorius was "reasonable" in firing at the door in order for him to escape conviction for culpable homicide.  So it has to be reasonable that he was sure that Reeva was not behind the door and instead it was an intruder that was about to come out and harm him.  I, for one, think his actions of not checking on Reeva who he claims he thought was in bed, failing to stay out of the alcove, not turning on the light, going down the alcove on his stumps screaming "Get the ** out of my house!" and then firing at the door without waiting for a reply to be totally unreasonable.

    What is reasonable (none / 0) (#14)
    by Rumpole on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 08:20:14 AM EST
    would surely have to be... what is reasonable for a "vulnerable" amputee. Less able to defend himself if he delays etc. Easily disarmed etc etc

    Also I do NOT have a problem with 4 shots. No different from one shot if you consider it as a volley. If a single shot IS ok then so too is a short (or even long) volley.
    We see incidents all the time (eg police shootings) where they do not fire one shot by accident, but rather unload a magazine. In some instances multiple policemen unload entire magazines.


    His Vunerability Makes What He Did (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by RickyJim on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 08:34:39 AM EST
    even more unreasonable.  I mean going into the dark alcove on his stumps.  Turning on the light, getting out his gun and putting on his feet would have been thing a reasonable double amputee would have done.

    This was my thought as well. (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by leftwig on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 08:59:44 AM EST
    If he feels so vulnerable, why is he taking an aqggressive/offensive position of going down a dark hallway towards the percieved imminent danger instead of taking a defensive position?  He goes down this dark hallway not knowing what he might find around the corner in the bathroom, but then is overcome with fear of what might be behind a locked wc door that he has to shoot at it 4 times?  I don't find that explanation remotely reasonable given the actions taken.

    That might fly (none / 0) (#12)
    by jbindc on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 06:59:11 AM EST
    How would it fly if one considers that OP (in his mind) fired at an intruder, but in effect MISSED and shot Reeva by mistake. An accident?

    If he had shot her in the dark, and shot once.  It doesn't really seem probable, IMO, in this case, when he shot 4 times through a locked door.

    Also, what is the standard in South Africa?  Do they have a form of the castle rule, whereby he could shoot an intruder first without having to attempt a retreat?


    The Best Explanation of CH Online (none / 0) (#15)
    by RickyJim on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 08:22:51 AM EST
    that I have found is here.  This paragraph, in particular, seems relevant to the OP case.
    The test for negligence is an objective one, as opposed to the test for intention in murder, which is subjective. For example, if it is shown that a man ought to have foreseen the possibility of killing someone when he fired a gun, negligence is present and he is guilty of culpable homicide. If it is shown that he must have foreseen the possibility of death resulting from his actions or that he intended to kill, intention is proved and he is guilty of murder.