Labeled by some South Africans as the best reality show since Big Brother Africa, the Oscar Pistorius trial resumed this morning with an announcement by State prosecutor Gerrie Nel that the theme for today was “tailoring your evidence.” The man who has gained various bulldog and bull terrier nicknames because of his dogged determination to get to “the truth,” said he would continue his line of questioning in court that would show that Pistorius is making his evidence up as he goes along.
Nel started by asking if Reeva Steenkamp, the murder victim, was a very neat person. Pistorius said she was “in some senses,” though her car was “a mess.” Nel pointed out that at the murder scene all her clothes were folded up and put away in her overnight bag, but her denim jeans were on the floor. Pistorius has given evidence that when he got up shortly before he heard the noise that lead him to believe intruders were in his house, he had planned to use the jeans to cover a blue light on the amplifier for his Hi-Fi.
The relevance of this, Nel told Pistorius and the court, was that Reeva had wanted to put on her jeans and leave the house because they were arguing. Pistorius denied this saying the jeans were inside out, and he and Reeva were not arguing.
Nel also brought up evidence about where Reeva’s slops (sandals) were, when she last ate, and where exactly the fan was when police officers first got to the house after the shooting on Valentine’s Day last year. Pistorius has been accused of the first-degree murder of his gorgeous model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, but has pleaded not guilty, admitting he killed her, but claiming it was a horrific mistake.
Following through on his Tailoring Your Evidence theme in the Pretoria High Court today, Gerrie Nel pinpointed a number of instances where he maintained the accused was simply inventing stories. He also accused Pistorius of not thinking of the questions, and instead considering the implications of his answers.
Nel did not follow a direct train of thought from the alleged noises Pistorius heard to the shooting. Instead he looked at a number of areas of evidence. Having questioned Pistorius on Reeva’s neatness, he talked about which side of the bed she had slept on that night (the right rather than on the left which was customary), and whether she would have worn her slops (sandals) when she walked around the house. He asked questions about her stomach content in relation to when the couple last ate, and then switched to when the police arrived at Pistorius’ home after the shooting.
Nel questioned Pistorius about the blue LED light on his amplifier in the bedroom that Pistorius said he intended to cover (and hide) with Reeva’s blue jeans, because the light was bothering him. The jeans were found lying on the floor, covering a corner of the duvet that was also found on the floor, spattered with blood. Nel asked why the small blue light on the amplifier bothered Pistorius when other lights on the hi fi equipment did not. Pistorius could not answer this question, along with several others. Ultimately, Nel said, he needed to look at “all these small things” and indicated that he would continue to do so until he got the answers he was looking for.
The noises Pistorius has claimed he heard in the early hours of February 14, 2013 were a big issue in court today, with Nel accusing him of not having included all of them in either his bail hearing or his plea explanation. Pistorius could not explain why he had not done this. Questioned about his own screaming which has been said by the defense to sound like a woman’s voice, he said recordings had been taken but that his screams on the night he killed Reeva were like nothing he had ever heard before.
I was screaming for Reeva, I was screaming for the Lord to help me; I don’t think one scream was the same.
Nel also accused Pistorius of changing his defense from putative self-defense to an involuntary action. Pistorius sobbed as he told the court he “did not fire as Reeva,” but simply “fired in the direction of where I thought the attack was coming from.” He said he did not understand the difference in the two pleas Nel had cited and said he was not sure what Nel was talking about.
Guardian Liberty Voice reported this apparent change in defense in an article yesterday, quoting an associate law professor, Prof. James Grant who has identified it as a potential problem.
There was no new evidence in court today, only detailed cross-examination by Nel that had Oscar Pistorius sobbing on several occasions. Nel questioned him in great detail about how he entered the bathroom and how he held, and then shot his gun. He asked Pistorius to describe, again, in detail what happened when he shot, and then what he did when he when he went back to the bedroom and discovered that Reeva was not there.
With a declared theme for today of “tailoring your evidence,” Oscar Pistorius was warned in advance that Gerrie Nel wanted the court to see that he has been building his version of the fatal shooting “as you go.” Before the court adjourned this afternoon, the bulldog prosecutor warned that he would be building a “whole range of questions about the toilet” for tomorrow.
By Penny Swift