Oscar on the stand: 10 crucial questions


1975 days ago

Eyewitness New's Barry Bateman takes a look at some of the questions, from both the state and the defence, Pistorius might have to answer when he enters the witness box.

1) Why did you not tell the bail court you spoke to Steenkamp shortly before killing her?

In the bail application, Pistorius stated that early on the morning of 14 February he woke up, went on to the balcony to bring "the fan" in, and close the sliding doors, the blinds and the curtains. It was then he claims to have heard a noise in the bathroom.

In his plea explanation submitted on day one of the trial, Pistorius added, "During the early hours of the morning I brought two fans in from the balcony. I had shortly before spoken to Reeva who was in bed beside me."

In the same way defence advocate Barry Roux questioned discrepancies in the first and second statements of neighbours, prosecutor Gerrie Nel is likely to question this important fact.

But is it a case of the accused tailoring his version? Why did he not to mention this in the bail application?

What it seems show is that Pistorius knew his girlfriend was awake at the time he charged at the perceived threat.

2) You claim to be "acutely aware of violent crime being committed by intruders entering homes", and sleep with a firearm under your bed - yet you fell asleep with a balcony door to your bedroom open?

In the bail application, Pistorius stated that he woke up to bring a fan in "and close the sliding doors". Nel will certainly stress that going to sleep at night with a door leading to your bedroom wide open is inconsistent with someone who is so fearful that they keep a loaded weapon an arm's length away as they sleep.

3) Why did you not seek out Steenkamp before investigating the noise?

Five neighbours have testified about waking up in the early hours of the morning after hearing disturbing noises. Among the first things they did was to ask their partners, "did you hear that?".

Pistorius has provided no indication that he even attempted to establish the whereabouts of Steenkamp before arming himself and approaching the perceived threat. His recent inclusion in his plea explanation that he had spoken to Steenkamp before collecting the fans outside makes this question pertinent.

Why not ask your partner, whom you'd just spoken to, did you hear that? Her lack of response would surely have led to the discovery that she had left the bedroom.

4) How long did it take you to arm yourself, storm the threat and open fire?

This will seek to establish a timeline of events and test whether Pistorius's version is believable. Pistorius says Steenkamp must have gone to the bathroom. In the bail application Roux put it on record that the autopsy finding that Steenkamp had an empty bladder is consistent with someone who had relieved themself. The athlete states in his plea explanation that once he closed all the doors, blinds and curtains, he "heard the bathroom window sliding open".

Is Pistorius saying that in the time it took him to arm himself, charge down the passage, peak in to the bathroom and open fire that Steenkamp opened the window, entered the toilet cubicle, relieved herself and put her pants back on before he opened fire?

5) How did you so quickly reach the conclusion that "it could have been Reeva in the toilet".

This again looks at the timeline. Pistorius says in the bail application that he fired the shots and then called to Steenkamp to call the police, but she did not respond. Pistorius then retreated to the bed, and once he got there - still in pitch darkness - "it dawned upon him" that Reeva could have been in the toilet.

Was it the lack of response that triggered this belief that she was not in the bedroom? You had moments earlier "screamed… for Reeva to phone the police", and not received a response.

6) Tell the court about the washing machine incident.

Firearm dealer Sen Rens testified about an incident Pistorius related to him. The athlete had arrived home, and hearing a noise in the house, armed himself and proceeded to clear the house, only to find that the source of the noise was his washing machine.

Pistorius also tweeted about this incident: "Nothing like getting home to hear the washing machine on and thinking it's an intruder to go into full combat recon mode into the pantry!".

February 14 2013 wasn't the first time Pistorius perceived there to be a threat in his home. What was it that prevented him opening fire on the previous occasion?

7) What stopped you shooting at a car you believed was following you?

Roux put it on the record that there was a previous incident where Pistorius was driving with his girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, when he believed he was being followed. When the couple arrived at the entrance to the Silver Woods Country Estate, he jumped out of the car with his firearm drawn. The car then sped away.

Nel could ask Pistorius - as a follow-up to the washing machine question - to explain to the court what it was that he considered to stop him from opening fire.

8) What did you and Steenkamp eat for dinner?

Professor Gert Saayman testified that the type and amount of food found in Steenkamp's stomach during the autopsy indicated that she had ingested it no more than two hours prior to death. Steenkamp died just after 3am. This testimony puts her awake and eating at 1am, a time the accused claims the couple was asleep.

Nel would want to explore what the athlete and his girlfriend ate the previous evening. Could it be of such a quantity and type to still be present in Steenkamp's stomach at the time of death?

9) What did you do upstairs after Steenkamp had died, but before the police arrived?

Neighbour Dr Johan Stipp testified that while he and estate manager Johan Stander were waiting outside Pistorius's house for the police to arrive, the athlete disappeared upstairs for several minutes. Nel might want to allow the athlete to explain what it was he was doing up there.

10) When you fired those four shots at a perceived threat on the other side of the door, what was your intention?

This hits at the crux of the state's argument and it is the requirement to prove murder - intent. Nel argued in the bail application that even if Pistorius didn't intend killing Steenkamp, he certainly did intend to kill the person behind the door. Nel will get the accused to explain in his own words what he wanted to achieve by firing the four shots through the door.

And further, what was his purpose of loading his firearm with the hollow-point ammunition, which is designed to cause maximum damage to a target.

For a more in depth coverage of Oscar's trial click here.

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