Life, etc

Pistorius bail application: Gerrie Nel strikes again

By Khadija Patel 22 February 2013

At 14:30 on Friday afternoon we will finally know whether Oscar Pistorius has been successful in his application for bail while he faces charges of premeditated murder related to the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. But before magistrate Desmond Nair could retire to his chambers to mull over the bail application, prosecutor Gerrie Nel was, once more, persuasive in his arguments against Pistorius receiving bail. By KHADIJA PATEL.

For the first time this week, representatives of Reeva Steenkamp attended the bail hearing of Oscar Pistorius. Sitting at the back of the court, they kept to themselves while, to their right, the family and friends of Oscar Pistorius listened as prosecutor Gerrie Nel concluded his final arguments against Pistorius receiving bail. Nel reiterated that Pistorius did not appear to understand the full extent of the crime he had committed.

Pistorius himself struggled to keep his composure. From his side, Nel showed that the prosecution has certainly not been aloof to the emotion the Olympic star has shown during the hearing. Concluding his final argument against the bail application, Nel said it is a possibility that Pistorius cried after the shooting and continues crying in court because he realises his life, as he’s lived it, is over.

Nel also questioned the decision of defence advocate Barry Roux to submit an affidavit detailing Pistorius’s view instead of exposing him to testifying in court. Analysts have pointed out that it is significant Pistorious’s legal team was not confident enough in him to subject him to cross-examination by the state and, in effect, were shielding him by submitting an affidavit.

According to Nel, the affidavit is open to the interpretation of the court.

“He has himself to blame,” Nel said. “He has to stand by the pitfalls and dangers of that affidavit.”

Nel was adamant that Pistorius’s claims of feeling threatened by an intruder are improbable. He questioned how Pistorius did not see or hear Steenkamp getting up and going to the toilet when he went to fetch the fan from the balcony, as he claimed to have in his affidavit.

Nel also returned to the two cellphones, which were not used to call friends or family, one belonging to Steenkamp and the other Pistorious, that had been found in the bathroom. He insisted that the location of those phones remained unexplained.

Later, advocate Barry Roux would argue that the cellphones were left in the bathroom in the confusion of the moments immediately after shooting Steenkamp.

“He grabbed the phones, all the phones,” Roux said.

Nel however believes Pistorius is “someone who does not appreciate the seriousness of the crime committed”.

“I haven’t heard anywhere that he admits causing the unlawful death of someone,” Nel said.

This failure to admit to wrongdoing, Nel said, increases his flight risk.

He said that on the strength of the available evidence Pistorius was indeed in the possession of illegal ammunition. Even though his attorneys have pointed out that ammunition belonged to his father, Nel said, “Objectively he was in possession of illegal ammunition, no matter that it belonged to his father.”

The broader context of the outrage against the high levels of violence abuse against women in South Africa has not been missed in this case. Nel brought up the case of Anene Booysens. He also emphasised that President Jacob Zuma had highlighted the urgent need to end violence against women in his State of the Nation Address last week. He stressed that Pistorius had shown a tendency towards violence.

“This applicant threatened people with violence,” Nel said.

“This applicant got away with firing in a public place.”

And he reminded the court that Pistorius had urged a friend to take the blame for firing that weapon in a restaurant in Johannesburg last month, lest it endangered his public image.

“It’s always me. Please protect me,” Nel said of Pistorius.

“There’s now a person dead.”

Barry Roux responded briefly to Nel’s arguments. He claimed there was a legal misconception by the state in its argument that Pistorius had fired shots into the bathroom with the intent to kill. Roux also said there was “nothing improbable about” Pistorius’s claim that he had rushed downstairs to unlock the front door before carrying Steenkamp down.

Significantly, however, Roux admitted to Nair that Pistorius’s affidavit was not comprehensive enough. He said that at the time of compiling the affidavit, his team did not expect a stringent opposition to the bail application.

Magistrate Nair, thanked both legal teams for their professional demeanour and comprehensive arguments, adding that he was in an “unenviable position” in issuing a ruling on the bail application, that is expected at 14:30. DM

Photo: Oscar Pistorius in court on Friday. (Greg Nicolson/Daily Maverick)


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