Life, etc

Pistorius bail hearing final arguments: State has the last word

By Khadija Patel 21 February 2013

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel’s final argument against the bail application of Oscar Pistorius on Thursday brought the proceedings into sharp focus. No matter the details, context and goings on before and after the shooting, the fact of the matter is that Reeva Steenkamp was shot by Oscar Pistorius. By KHADIJA PATEL.

“In a case where there are no eyewitnesses, there are many possibilities,” said advocate Barry Roux, acting for murder accused Oscar Pistorius, in his final argument in the application for bail at the Pretoria Magistrates Court on Thursday. Roux was compelling as he argued against the case put forward by the state to deny Pistorius bail.

He said that in the morass of possibilities of what may actually have happened in the early hours of the morning on Valentine’s Day, the version of events offered by Pistorius was the only probable explanation of how Reeva Steenkamp, a 30-year-old woman was left dead.

Roux said the state’s allegation that Pistorius and Steenkamp had quarrelled shortly before she was shot was baseless.

“It is a classical attempt by the state to introduce evidence without probative value.”

He rubbished the testimony of investigating officer Hilton Botha as speculation, going on to question the credibility of Botha.

“Botha is not a credible witness… If you don’t know, don’t tender evidence,” Roux said.

Magistrate Desmond Nair, who frequently interrupted Roux with his own questions, said he would consider the credibility of Botha later. But before Nair delivers his ruling on Friday on whether bail will be granted, Botha will no longer be the investigating officer on the Pistorius case, as was removed from the case by South African Police Services Commissioner Ria Piyega.

Botha’s testimony just did not hold up under cross-examination from Roux. Through him, the police services once more emerged negligent in their investigation and presumptuous in the evidence they presented to the court. But it is the revelations in the media that Botha is facing criminal charges that may have been his undoing.

Privately, Roux admitted that he believed it would not have been proper for him to bring up the charges Botha currently faces.

Once more, the level of detail offered by both sides was more akin to a trial than a mere bail hearing. Playing out to flashing cameras and furiously tweeting scribes, both sides have not missed a chance to put its best foot forward.

However, prosecutor Gerrie Nel’s rebuttal of the application for bail on Thursday afternoon he brought the proceedings into sharp focus: No matter the details, context and goings on before and after the shooting, Reeva Steenkamp was shot by Oscar Pistorius.

Nel said Pistorius’s prior history of threatening to assault people he had quarrelled with could not be ruled out in assessing whether Pistorius is capable of murder. He said the murder of Steenkamp had to be seen in the context of Pistorius issuing threats of violence.

Nel argued that Pistorius was indeed “prone to violence”.

According to Nel, the affidavit that Pistorius had offered to the court with his version of events was flawed. He pointed out that Pistorius did not offer to hand over his travel documents to authorities, or to remain within the Pretoria magisterial district. Nel argued then that the affidavit belied the severity of the crime committed.

Nel said, “He wants to continue with his life as if nothing has happened.” He added, “ [Pistorius has shown] a total lack of insight into the crime.”

And as compelling as the defence has been in this hearing, Nel pointed out two niggling questions that were yet to be addressed.

The location of the gun and the cellphones of Steenkamp and Pistorius after the shooting was one of them. Nel said the fact that the phones were found on a rug in front of the shower in the bathroom, “killed his version”.

On the subject of killing, Nel was equally insistent: Pistorius had opened fire on that morning with the sole objective to kill. If indeed he thought it was an intruder, then he intended to kill the intruder.

“Did he fire four shots just to scare the intruder, or to kill the intruder?” Nel asked.

“The only reason you’d fire four shots is to kill.”

Returning to the realm of probability and possibility Nel said, “[The Pistorius] version [of events] is improbable.”

Earlier Roux argued that Pistorius was a man who shot a woman without intending to and then, realising his mistake, immediately called emergency medical services. Nel rebuffed his argument, saying, “Remorse could kick in immediately.”

And as Nel spoke, Pistorius sat with his head in his hands, sobbing quietly. DM

Photo: Gerrie Nel (Greg Nicolson / Daily Maverick)


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