The Oscar Pistorius Trial – Pistorius’ Topsy Turvy weeks
Barely 24 hours after the Oscars had ended at the Dolby Theatre on the Hollywood Boulevard, Oscar Pistorius’ nightmare resumed thousands of miles away in South Africa.
The 27 year old blade runner cut a forlorn figure as he stepped into the High Court in Pretoria. A man described as the “fastest man without legs”, looked like a man without any confidence either. The awkwardness of the Pistorius family and the Steenkamps sharing a bench, barely moments from each other…without saying a word or sharing eye contact, spoke volumes of the mood inside the court room on day 1. Pistorius’ lawyer, Barry Roux looked like a man who had been revving for a fight and the Judge, Thokozile Masipa looked as battle ready and tense as the court room.
Week 1, saw the State prosecutor, Gerrie Nel call on Michell Burger, who lives near the crime scene, her testimony on hearing gun shots and screams was terrifying but nowhere as damning as neighbour, Charl Johnson’s testimony, whose graphic description of the incident set the courtroom ablaze with silence. Barry Roux had to be cautioned by Judge Masipa as he battled through the credibility of the statements and the disparity between written statements and court testimonies. While Roux fought on and Nel interjected, the ground underneath Pistorius already incredibly dicey situation continued to give way and his composure ebbed away at various moments streamed with tears and pain that had not been witnessed on the athlete’s demeanour since the ordeal began earlier in the year. The crux of the couple’s testimony was that the screams preceded the gunshots, raising possibility of fear and violence. This damning evidence was nowhere as final as Dr Johan Stipp’s, a man who lived closes to Pistorius and had absolute proximity to the bathroom area. Dr Stipp’s claimed that he heard not one, but two sets of bangs, separated by screams and silence. In all he had heard at least five and possibly six bangs, a definite difference from the four shots Roux canvassed were fired on the night. A man with military training as Dr Stipp would know the difference between cricket bats and gunshots.
Listening to all of this was a stern faced Masipa, a judge revered as a female activist, convicted and sentenced police inspector Freddy Mashamba for shooting dead his wife in 2009, in a case very similar to Pistorius. These stats will certainly not ease Pistorius to sleep at night, neither will the testimonies from his neighbours and boxer, Kevin Lerena who confirms Pitorius’ recklessness with fire arms and his ex-girlfriend, Samantha Taylor who simply corroborated the State’s probe on Pistorius’ gun wielding antics.
Now, I’m not saying that Pistorius shot Reeva, and with the onus lying with the prosecution, it appears that they will certainly have a lot of proving to do. Pre-meditated murder is the charge that Pistorius has pleased “not guilty” to, Nel and his team will have to come up with more compelling evidence disproving Pistorius’ story.
Week 2 was one that was themed with more Pistorius tears and bouts of vomiting as the crime scene was relived in such graphic vividness; the whole court was held spell bound. Reporters and press were asked not to tweet reports of the autopsy by the Judge. While week 1 focused on Pistorius, week 2 shifted to the victim, deceased Reeva Steenkamp, 29 year old model and reality television star.
Pistorius retched all over again, as grim bloodied pictures of Steenkamp were shown to the court. His already distraught demeanour was further crushed as the prosecution explained through one bloody slide after the other. Barry Roux continued his earlier bashing of the police, whose competence was questioned at every turn. The issue of Pistorius’ missing watch was raised and Roux nearly had an excitement fit as he hit salvo after salvo at Colonel Van Rensburg, who admitted that one of the police officers had handled a gun found at the crime scene without gloves.
Week 2 ended grimly, but yet with the prosecution still unable to prove that Pistorius’ version of events was false, a key element in winning the case. Pulsating questions still remain unanswered. When did the bathroom lights go on, why was he on a different side of bed from the one he usually slept on, where were his phones, did he hit the door first and then shoot at it or vice versa, what will the post-mortem examination reveal, how close to the door was he standing when he fired, and will anything of significance crop up on all those mobile phones?
It is yet possible that Oscar Pistorius might be cleared of premeditated murder and still be charged for reckless use of a firearm and other charges. The case is still at its birth and with Nel and Roux punching either side of Masipa, the action is most certainly yet to unfold.