Oscar Pistorius Takes the Stand

After a week of recess due to the illness of of one of the judge's fact-finders, the Oscar Pistorius trial resumed today, with the defense calling Dr. Botha The topics ranged from the angle of the bullets to when Reeva last ate and emptied her bladder. When he was done, Oscar took the stand.

From the reporters in the courtroom I follow via Twitter: [More...]

The defense says it has 17 or 18 witnesses to call. Oscar is likely to be among them. Today, when they showed more gruesome crime scene photos, he threw up and sobbed loudly.

The other witnesses will testify about ballistics, urine, damage to the door, cricket bat damage, sound, prosthetic marking, lighting, vulnerability and disability.

Update: Oscar takes the stand. He spent the majority of the morning explaining his life and struggles and talking about his prosthesis. He was born with a missing fibula on both legs and his legs were amputated when he was 11 months old. The doctors removed and sewed his heel pads onto his stumps. Since then, they've shifted, and as a result he has trouble with coordination when on his stumps. He puts his prostheses on sitting down. He also talked about how he puts them outside at night for a while to air them out.

He also has difficulty on planes due to the cramped space, and has gotten blood clots and had to be hospitalized. He gets a lot of skin irritations.

He almost died in a boating accident in 2009 He had 170 stitches and his face was smashed in. It had a major impact on his life. He became very withdrawn and fearful after the boat accident.

He talked about his mother's early death and his father being gone a lot and being bullied and how he once fought back. His family told him to stick up for himself. (Vulnerability issue.) He and his brother were in boarding school and not told she was sick. They got a call and were told to go to Johannesberg. They did, and got to see her for only 10 minutes before she died. He and his brother mostly stayed with relatives when not in school, not with his father.

His parents split up when he was 6. All three kids were close to their mother, who had just gotten remarried before she died. Oscar said she was very security conscious and kept a gun in a padded bag under her pillow.

When he first took the stand, he apologized to Reeva's family and friends and said there hasn't been a moment since this tragedy when he hasn't thought of them. "When I wake up in the morning they're the first people I think of. I can't imagine the pain, and sorrow and emptiness I have caused you."

He never wants to see a gun again. He's too scared to sleep and has nightmares. He wakes up at night smelling blood and terrified. He said one night he had a nightmare, and climbed in the cupboard and called his sister, who came over.

He takes anti-depressants and sleeping pills now. He's lost a lot of weight.

As to the night of the shooting, he says "I was trying to protect Reeva, I want people to know that she was loved when she went to bed that night."

The court is in recess for lunch.

My thoughts: The state's case is not only circumstantial, but based on inferences. Since there are no eye witnesses, the "ear witnesses" versions differ, and there are experts on both sides with different opinions, I don't think the state met its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt for the murder charge.

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  • Display: Sort:
    But What About the Recklessness Charge? (4.00 / 1) (#1)
    by RickyJim on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 09:11:14 AM EST
    Maybe it is not murder but firing into a bathroom because he thinks he heard a noise there, without first asking Reeva to call the police, shows he did something wrong.  My understanding of South African law is that you aren't supposed to fire your gun unless you are directly threatened.

    he says he did yell to Reeva (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 05:22:18 PM EST
    to call the police -- he thought she was in bed when he was at the bathroom door investigating the noise. From his opening statement:

    On my way to the bathroom I screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in bed.

    Doesn't Sound Good Enough to Beat CH (none / 0) (#8)
    by RickyJim on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 06:08:52 PM EST
    Í assume that under cross examination he will be asked:

    1.  What made you so sure that Reeva was in bed and not in the bathroom?
    2.  She didn't reply to your scream that she call the police, did she?  
    3.  Why didn't you wait outside the alcove with your gun drawn and comfort Reeva instead of going to the bathroom door and opening fire?

    I am sure that Nel can think of others.

    Also (none / 0) (#12)
    by jbindc on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 06:31:31 AM EST
    "Since you passed the bed on the way to the bathroom, was it dark enough that you wouldn't be able to tell if she was in bed or not?  If it was too dark to see her, why didn't you check to see if she was there before proceeding to the bathroom?"

    So his testmimony today was that she was (none / 0) (#13)
    by leftwig on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 03:02:33 PM EST
    awake at the time he got out of bed to get the fans.  He shuts the curtain and was going to put her jeans over some LED lights when he heard a noise in the bathroom.  How in the world would it not occur to him that it was most likely his GF who he knew was awake because she just talked to him?  How can you not have the common sense and decency to consider at least checking to make sure the noise didn't come from the most logical source, the person who was just talking to you?  Knowing that she was awake, why wouldn't he have said, "hey Reeva, did you hear that?"  Why would your first response be to grab your gun and head down the dark hallway into the unknown without any concern for where your GF is?  And whats with the story about the bathroom door being slammed?  I mean what thief is going to make a whole bunch of noise and corner themselves in a wc after you just yelled out for someone to call police?  Sounds more like a trumped up excuse in case some witness recalled hearing doors slam.  

    I don't know that the prosecution did what it needed to prove murder, but his story defies logic on so many levels.


    To me (none / 0) (#14)
    by jbindc on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 06:47:42 AM EST
    that's the biggest problem with his story. If you are in the room with someone - even your sworn enemy whom you hate more than anything - and you hear a noise and think it's an intruder, it is pretty much an instinctive reaction to see if they are there or heard the noise too.  And especially if you are sharing a bed with someone, your first instinct would be to look at the bed or look around and check if they are there and safe.

    Were there separate beds? (none / 0) (#15)
    by Mr Natural on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 12:09:55 PM EST
    Because if they shared a bed, this story is utterly...

    Really, how large was that bed?  Even in a king size I can find my wife within a second or two of waking up.  But I'm not under the influence of pain killers or steroids or whatever.  Has he played that card?

    Since we're withholding judgement, (aren't we?) let's see if the defense can concoct a theory we can believe.


    No (none / 0) (#16)
    by jbindc on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 12:19:22 PM EST
    Here's a graphic

    (Ignore the story and headline, because I don't know what has changed in the case since then)


    Thanks, JB. (none / 0) (#20)
    by Mr Natural on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 08:37:51 AM EST
    I don't believe that floorplan is accurate. (none / 0) (#21)
    by leftwig on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 01:25:16 PM EST
    I think its an alternate floorplan for other buildings in the complex.  This I blieve is the accurate blueprint for his place.


    Not sure why it didn't link. (none / 0) (#22)
    by leftwig on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 02:46:24 PM EST
    As in most criminal cases the law is key. (4.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Alexei Schacht on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 11:26:34 AM EST
    As in most criminal cases it is impossible to say, or even have a real opinion about, what is proven or not proven. I know nothing about South African law so I don't have a strong opinion about what the pieces of evidence I know of have proven.

    But Jeralyn may well be right that the proof is weak for murder (whatever its definition in South Africa) as there may just be too much conflicting proof on the issue of intent.

    But RickyJim may also be right that some lesser charge will be hard to beat since his conduct, even if one believes Oscar's version, is wildly reckless.

    If he really thought an intruder was in the bathroom (maybe stealing the soap) and he did not see his Reeva in bed he likely should have considered that she might have been in the bathroom being assaulted by the intruder.

    But unless one knows what South African law is on topics like manslaughter, recklessness, etc it is not possible to intelligently predict the trial's outcome.  


    The lesser is culpable homicide (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 12:25:32 PM EST
    Sentencing is at the court's discretion. If I remember correctly, the maximum is 15 years. Culpable homicide is more like a negligent killing. Here's an explanation of the difference.

    I agree that could be a problem for him.

    If this were in the US, (none / 0) (#4)
    by leftwig on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 12:57:59 PM EST
    what would the burden be for the prosecution to reach a conclusion of Murder?  Not necessarily murder 1, but essentially any degree that would say he must have known it was Reeva behind the door when he shot into it?  I guess what I am getting at, is if there is no door on the toilet, then the prosecution doesn't have to prove OP knew it was Reeva he was shooting at, its implied because he could see what he was shooting.  What extra burden is added to the prosecution because the shooting is behind a closed door?  I mean I think its common sense to just about anyone, that if you hear a noise in the bathroom at night, the very first person you are going to assume that noise to be, would be any persons staying with you.  IF OP can't give any sort of reasonable explanation as to why he didn't check on that, then I would think that could be enough evidence to show that he didn't check because he knew she was in the bathroom.  Is just this sort of expected, reasonable thinking, enough for the prosecution, or do they actually have to show some sort of physical/witness evidence that OP knew it was Reeva?

    The ear witness accounts don't match up that well with each other, but I am not sure thats to be expected.  The question is whether they match up in any way with any facts.  I think the defense has offered up some possible explanations to what the witnesses heard, but hasn't completely discounted their testimony.  The witness that I think presented the biggest issue for OP and the one that I think will ultimately decided whether the judge goes with murder or negligent homicide, is the security guard.  The security guard said he called OP first (after he was called about arguing and sounds of gunshots) and OP told him he was OK and hung up.  He said OP called back later and didn't say anything, just cried and hung up.  The defense offered that they believe OP called security first and the guard had it wrong.  IF the phone records don't bear out that OP called security first, making the security guards account more believable, then I think he'll likely be found guilty of murder.

    There are some 55 separate jurisdictions (none / 0) (#11)
    by Peter G on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 09:10:19 PM EST
    in the U.S., each with its own law of murder.  But in general, what makes a homicide a "murder" is its being committed "with malice aforethought," that is, "in cold blood."  Even an unintended killing can be murder (called "second degree," or third, depending on the jurisdiction), if committed with extreme indifference toward human life (driving a car into a crowd is a common example, or beating someone so severely that s/he dies, but in each of these instances, without a specific intent to kill).  An intentional killing "in the heat of passion" ("hot-blooded") is voluntary manslaughter (so is a killing done in the unreasonable belief that one is acting in self-defense, in many places). Finally, of the four principal categories of homicide in the U.S., is involuntary manslaughter, which is a killing as result of gross negligence.  In any given jurisdiction, there will be other nuances.

    Thanks (none / 0) (#5)
    by Rumpole on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 02:28:06 PM EST

     A fair summary as far as I recall last night.

     FWIW I agree with your conclusions. I think the State persist in arguing something that they are unlikely to prove beyond reasonable doubt. That is that OP is lying in his claim that he thought there was an intruder, and that he shot at the door KNOWING that Reeva was behind it.
    I think that they might be better served if they basically concede that OP's version is true, and then argue a case around how OP was unreasonable/reckless in forming that belief and/or his actions (with that belief) were reckless and criminal. Of course...all done in the context of SA law(of which I have no idea of the details).
    I have read that people had a LOT of expectations in regards how Nel would perform in cross examining the defence witnesses... especially OP.
    Nel certainly came out aggressive, but IMO he came across as petty and petulant. Making snide comments like "I wish I was allowed to laugh" etc. On occasions, having been unable to coerce the exact answer he was after, he "put in the last word" with his own interpretation of what the witness said (should have said). IMO "aggressive bulldog" does not sit well with Nel, he looks a little silly? He is no Juan Martinez.

    I've noticed the judge (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 05:18:03 PM EST
    doesn't hesitate to rule against Nel and disagree with him -- I've not seen the whole trial obviously, but I did watch many hours the first week. I don't care for his style either. Barry Roux is very good I think.

    I agree (none / 0) (#9)
    by Rumpole on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 06:56:30 PM EST
    I have grown to like Roux. An acquired taste I would say, but once you appreciate it, it's a joy to watch him in action. Mental chess, very clever manoeuvres. The SA system seems to allow a lot of leeway on what can be asked, and "asked and answered" is rarely invoked :) That does make for slow and seemingly repetitive and tedious questioning, but I do see where Roux is going and he gets there very often.
    I see comments that Nel is only doing what Roux did in being aggressive in cross examination, but Nel IMO has not got the same "class" He came across to me as "stamping his feet" and demanding of the witness that his opinion "made no sense", when clearly it did make sense... just that it did not make sense to Nel :) Mock laughing and derision etc just comes across badly IMO.

    Just to add (none / 0) (#10)
    by Rumpole on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 08:17:40 PM EST
    I thought the final moments of the trial yesterday demonstrated Nel's petulance(and hypocrisy)when he reluctantly agreed to Roux's request to adjourn early because OP was "exhausted". Nel added a caveat "provided it's not a daily occurrence"
    Which is a bit RICH coming from "early tea-time Nel" who asks for early tea-time most days (even yesterday) and has himself on several occasions asked for an early adjournment to end the day, for no reason other than he is not prepared.
    The Judge did give Nel a "swat" back by saying that (to her) OP did look exhausted.

    I agree (none / 0) (#17)
    by NYShooter on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 02:42:09 PM EST
    that our un-familiarity with S.A. law makes it difficult to predict an outcome (based on the law.)

    But, the question of whether Oscar knew Reeva was in the bathroom, or, not, is one we're entitled to speculate about. And, in my opinion, it's the key question the jury will have to agree upon.

    I know, from personal experience, what thoughts went through my mind when I thought a burglar was, possibly, in my house. As I drew my weapon and approached the closet door where I felt the burglar was hiding the first thoughts were, what if it's my son playing a trick, or, a neighbor, friend, etc.? There was, simply, no way I would have started firing indiscriminately. Of course, people are different, and, my actions don't, necessarily transfer to someone else.

    So, in that regard, I think the emails that were read in court are very problematic for Oscar. They indicated that Oscar was short tempered, self-centered, and, "quick on the draw." (pardon the pun.) In any event, the emails are the only pieces of evidence that aren't circumstantial, and, pose the biggest threat for the defense, in my opinion.


    No jury trial in S.A. (none / 0) (#18)
    by MO Blue on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 05:16:13 PM EST
    Judge will have to weigh the testimony and render the verdict.

    Yup, (none / 0) (#23)
    by NYShooter on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 04:37:15 PM EST
    just slapped myself in the head, Leroy Jethro Gibbs style.

    Reports of comments the prosecutor (none / 0) (#19)
    by oculus on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 06:47:46 PM EST
    volunteers in the courtroom astound me. Did this judge attend Judge Ito's judicial college?


    Please (none / 0) (#25)
    by lentinel on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 01:24:54 PM EST
    go away.