Life, etc

Pistorius Trial: Week 11, Day 2

By Rebecca Davis 8 July 2014

It’s the 39th day of the Pistorius murder trial, and this may be the final day of the defence’s case. The defence witness thought to be the last on the stand – Sports Medicine Professor Wayne Derman – concluded his testimony yesterday. Pistorius’s defence team took an early adjournment in order to consider their options, after being blocked by the court from consulting with state psychiatrist Carla Kotze. By REBECCA DAVIS

09.00 Could this be it? When court resumes in Pretoria today, it might be a very short sitting. That’s if Pistorius’s defence team decides that they will not be calling any further witnesses. The speculation is that if they do decide to call one more witness, it will be somebody to give further evidence about Pistorius’s psychological state. This is what’s being inferred from Barry Roux’s request yesterday to consult with state psychiatrist Carla Kotze, a member of the panel which assessed Pistorius at Weskoppies, which Judge Masipa shot down on the grounds that Kotze could not be considered a “normal witness”.

In other trial-related news, Sunday’s Australian TV special on the murder trial, including Pistorius’s re-enactment of the night Steenkamp was killed, is now available to watch in full on YouTube. It’s just over 40 minutes long, but beyond the re-enactment footage, there’s not much in it that will be news to people who have been following the trial closely.

Pistorius is shown walking on his stumps, and some have argued that this footage shows that he is capable of quicker and more extensive mobility than the defence has let on. He is also shown pulling on his prosthetic legs as fast as he can, which he undertakes in 26 seconds. On camera, he repeats the version of events that he delivered during his court testimony.

The programme – broadcast by Australia’s Seven network – rests heavily on the opinions of Scott Roder, CEO of the Evidence Room. It was Roder’s company which was hired by the Pistorius family to create a video re-enactment of the night of the shooting. On camera Roder expresses his strong belief that Pistorius is innocent – but then again he was on the family pay-roll.

The issue of the video has still not been raised in court. BBC journalist Andrew Harding tweeted yesterday that a member of the defence told him that the video had not been shown in court by the defence because the re-enactment was “inaccurate”.

09.30 And that’s that. The defence for Oscar Pistorius officially rests.

The only matters dealt with in court today were administrative. Barry Roux announced that an electrical cord from the crime scene has still not been found, though the state has produced affidavits from the police members responsible for looking after the evidence.

Roux placed on record that psychiatrist Dr Leon Fine, who was part of the panel who evaluated Pistorius at Weskoppies Hospital, had not been able to give evidence due to suffering a heart attack last week.

Intriguingly, Roux also wished to place on record that a number of witnesses which the defence had wanted to call had refused to testify due to the broadcast of the trial. It was a possible hint that the defence may seek to use the televising of the trial as grounds for an appeal.

It is, of course, possible to compel reluctant witnesses to testify via subpoena, but legal teams may choose not to do so due to the possibility that they would then be hostile witnesses. Pistorius’s defence team may argue at a later stage that this prejudiced Oscar Pistorius’s chance of a fair trial.

It’s been agreed that the state will file its head of arguments on 30 July, and the defence on 4 August. There is to be no publication in the media of details from these until they have been heard in court. Judge Thokozile Masipa clearly feels strongly about this, referring to anyone who leaked information in this regard as “a thief”.

The closing arguments from both sides will be heard in court on 7th and 8th August, with the state going first. After that, there will be another break while Judge Masipa finishes writing her judgment. So for the next month, barring any unexpected drama, it should be all quiet on the Oscar front.

We’ll be publishing a summary of the defence’s arguments on Daily Maverick later today. DM

Photo: South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius (L) talks to members of his defence team as he sits in the dock during his ongoing murder trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, 07 July 2014. Pistorius stands trial for the premeditated murder of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013. EPA/IHSAAN HAFFEJEE / POOL

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