Pistorius lawyer says ‘cold facts’ do not prove murder
Oscar Pistorius's defence lawyer said the "cold facts" did not prove the sports star had intended to murder lover Reeva Steenkamp, as he launched a final bid Friday to save the "Blade Runner" from life in prison.
In his closing argument, fiery defence lawyer Barry Roux rubbished the prosecution’s claim that Pistorius deliberately shot 29-year-old with hollow point bullets after a Valentine’s Day row last year, saying the evidence was “circumstantial”.
The gripping five-month murder trial that has at times played out like a soap opera — broadcast around the world — is expected to adjourn Friday to await Judge Thokozile Masipa’s verdict, which could come within weeks.
In a last-ditch plea to the court, Roux sought to show there was enough doubt about the state’s case to make a murder conviction impossible.
He said the evidence suggested the 27-year-old Paralympian should never have faced a murder trial, but rather the lesser charge of culpable homicide.
“The failure of the state to present that evidence leaves one big question mark,” said Roux, “that’s the failure of the state’s case.”
But Roux admitted that Pistorius should be found guilty of discharging a firearm in a Johannesburg restaurant, one of three gun-related charges the athlete also faces.
Pistorius had pleaded not guilty to those charges. “He’s guilty my lady, guilty on the first alternative, that he negligently used that firearm,” said Roux.
The defence has sought to portray Pistorius as a “highly-vulnerable individual” obsessed with safety — a result of a difficult childhood and his disability — in a country with a sky-high crime rate.
The “slow burn” caused by Pistorius’s anxiety is comparable to that of an abused woman who finally turns on her husband, said Roux, causing the judge to interject.
“How does it apply to the accused in this case?” Masipa asked.
Roux tried to explain: “That constant reminder, I do not have legs, I cannot run away, I am not the same, that’s with him, he can’t pretend, he can’t pretend that it’s fine.”
“That effect of that over time, it filled the cup to the brim.”
During the trial Pistorius underwent psychiatric evaluation and an ensuing report said he was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, but was not suffering any mental illness that could prevent him being held criminally responsible for his actions.
– ‘Deceitful witness’-
On Thursday Pistorius, a double amputee known as the “Blade Runner” for his prosthetic legs, was branded a “deceitful” witness by prosecutor Gerrie Nel in his final arguments.
Pistorius’s efforts to concoct an alibi had led to a “snowball effect” of lies requiring more lies to back them up, Nel said.
“In an attempt to tailor his version to support his plea explanation, he tangled himself in a web.”
Summing up the state’s review of evidence, Nel said Pistorius was guilty of “a baker’s dozen” of misleading statements.
Roux rejected that assertion. “There’s no mosaic crumbling and falling, there’s no dropping of the baton, so eloquently put by Mr Nel,” says Roux, “everything slots in.”
Pistorius, who rose to international fame when he competed alongside able-bodied runners at the 2012 London Olympics, has at times sat weeping and vomiting in the dock as grisly details of Steenkamp’s death were presented.
Steenkamp’s parents Barry and June sat side by side in the first row of the public gallery, their faces impassively fixed on Roux as he described Pistorius shooting their daughter.
Once a poster boy for disabled sport, Pistorius has been stripped of lucrative endorsement deals by global brands and has withdrawn from all competition.
He faces 25 years in jail if he is convicted of premeditated murder.
Even if he is not found guilty of premeditated murder, Pistorius could still be convicted and jailed on alternative charges of culpable homicide, or manslaughter.
“Culpable homicide could get him anything from a warning to 15 years, again depending on the seriousness of the case and personal circumstance of the accused,” said Stephen Tuson, a lawyer and lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Legal analysts say the athlete, once revered for his triumph over disability, did damage his case by appearing to offer two different defences.
Nearly 40 witnesses ranging from a jilted ex-girlfriend to a forensic geologist testified, creating a hefty record with thousands of pages.
Such was the intensity of the public gaze that some witnesses, including Pistorius, refused to testify in front of cameras, while some refused to take the stand at all.