Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius reacts at the end of his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria April 10, 2014. State prosecutor Gerrie Nel accused him of blaming other people for his mistakes.
PRETORIA – As Oscar Pistorius returns to the stand for his sixth day of cross examination, it has become clear that there are a number of critical questions he is going to have to answer about his version of events.
Pistorius is the only person who can definitively say what happened that morning of 14 February, in which he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
However, legal experts say Pistorius has done more damage to his case than good by taking the stand.
Criminal lawyer Ulrich Roux watched Pistorius&39;s testimony and like prosecutor Gerrie Nel, says Pistorius should have kept his answers short and to the point.
“His long answers are working against him. Nel wants him to give long answers and he is playing into Nel’s hands,” Roux said.
Throughout the cross examination so far, Nel has warned Pistorius against giving long answers in response to his questions.
He has also accused the blade runner of being evasive.
Another legal expert, June Marks, has questioned whether Pistorius has any defence left.
“I don’t think he has a defence at this point. There is a difference between saying that you pulled the trigger because you got a fright and were unaware you were doing it and saying you thought you were threatened and consciously pulled the trigger. Pistorius said both, contradicting himself,” Marks said.
Throughout his cross examination, Nel has been at pains to point out changes in Pistorius testimony and this is likely to form a key part of his final argument at the end of the case.
Marks says Pistorius’ intentions at the time of the shooting will remain a key element thoughout the case.
“Pistorius was a weapons expert and knew he could kill someone, and it need not be Reeva, if he shot the door and he did it anyway, therefore it is murder. It does not matter if he thought he was killing an intruder or Reeva and Pistorius cannot satisfy the requirements for private defence as a defence,” she said.
Meanwhile, Pistorius has these three key questions to answer:
What did Pistorius intend doing when he got the gun and went after “intruders”?
This is perhaps the most central question of the case and will ultimately be the difference between a guilty verdict for murder or not.
Pistorius’s initial version, as given in his bail application, was that he fired at supposed intruder in self defence.
However, under cross examination, Pistorius appears to have altered his versions somewhat, saying he shot by accident.
“Why did you fire?” Nel has asked Pistorius several times.
Pistorius: Because I heard a noise coming from inside the toilet that I interpreted at that split moment to be somebody coming out to attack me.”
Nel: And when you heard that you just started shooting? Or accidentally your fingers pulled the trigger?
Pistorius: I started shooting at that point, My Lady.
Nel: At the intruders?
Pistorius: At the door, My Lady.
Nel: But in your mind at the intruders?
Pistorius: It’s what I perceived to be the intruder coming out to attack me, My Lady.
Nel: So it wasn’t accidentally?
Pistorius: My Lady, I’m getting confused with this accidentally not accidentally. When I try and explain myself I am told its either an accident or not. I’ve said time and time again what I perceived and what I thought.
Why did Reeva not respond to his screams and shouts?
Pistorius has told the court that after waking up around 3am, he got out of bed to bring two fans in from the position he had put them earlier that night at the sliding door leading to his bedroom balcony.
On his version, he was sleeping closest to the bathroom, while Steenkamp slept closest to the balcony.
While moving the fans Pistorius says he heard the sound of the bathroom window opening.
In the dark bedroom Pistorius told Steenkamp to get down and call the police while he goes for his gun and moves towards the bathroom.
According to Pistorius, she does not respond.
He shouted at the intruder who he thought was in the bathroom. Steenkamp still, did not respond.
Pistorius said after quietly entering the bathroom, he again shouted at the intruder who he thought was hiding in the toilet, and also called for Steenkamp to call the police.
Again, Steenkamp said nothing.
“If Reeva had come out (of the toilet) of if she had spoken to me, then I wouldn’t have fired,” Pistorius said on Friday.
Nel has asked why Steenkamp would have remained completely silent as her lover repeatedly called on her to call police, particularly when he was standing just metres away from her in the bathroom.
Did Reeva scream?
Neigbours who were called to testify distinctly recall hearing a woman scream, with some saying they heard a woman scream amid gunshots. The prosecution says the evidence points to the fact that Steenkamp ran away from Pistorius, in fear, and locked herself in the bathroom.
Asked whether he heard Steenkamp scream, Pistorius was initially confident saying she did not scream.
However, under stern cross examination he conceded that he couldn’t have heard her scream because of how loud the gunshots were in the bathroom.
The screams are a key element of the state’s case and it appears Nel will argue that Steenkamp knew Pistorius was coming after her with a gun, hid and then screamed as he shot and killed her deliberately.
However, the defence have argued that Pistorius fired in rapid succession, possibly too quick for Steenkamp to have screamed at all.
The case continues at 9:30 today.