“You’re trying, and it’s not working. Your version is so improbable that nobody would ever think it is reasonably possible.”
A fan, a duvet and a plug adapter could mean the difference between freedom and life in prison for South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, who is currently on trial for the murder of his girlfriend, 29-year-old model and law graduate, Reeva Steenkamp.
State prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who has been relentless in his vicious cross-examination of the accused, cornered Pistorius in the final minutes of today’s proceedings by demonstrating that the placement of one of the fans, the adaptor it was connected to, the duvet and the drawn curtains all suggested that Pistorius never went to retrieve two fans from the balcony as stated in his affidavit.
He inferred that the only possible way that Pistorius’s version of events could be deemed plausible is if the police had actively and intentionally rearranged all four items before police photographer Warrant Officer Barend van Staden arrived on the scene, which Nel said would be highly improbable.
“So let’s just sum this up. A policeman moved two fans, put the duvet on the floor and opened the curtains wider than it should be?” Nel asked incredulously.
“That is correct, My Lady,” Pistorius responded.
Nel then asked why anyone would want to move the items and whether Pistorius believed that the police were conspiring against him (which is not only far-fetched, but chronologically impossible as the police would have had to have moved the items after reading Pistorius’s affidavit in order to contradict his version of events.)
The inference Nel is making here is that if the items were placed in the same manner as in the police photograph, then Pistorius would have had clear visibility of the room, and would not have been able to shout for help on the balcony because the fan would have obstructed his path. The open sliding doors would also explain why neighbors would have been able to hear the screams that they did.
Nel instead suggested that the couple had been arguing, a intimation that the PIstorius’s defense fiercely objected to, although Nel countered this by reminding the judge that he was drawing from neighbors’ testimony and thus regarded it as circumstantial evidence. “Circumstantial evidence is evidence,” Nel argued. “We can’t lead on eyewitness evidence because the only other eyewitness is dead.”
As we’ve heard in previous testimony and in Pistorius’s affidavit, the athlete had opted to sleep on the left side of the bed to alleviate pain from a shoulder injury he had sustained, leading Steenkamp to sleep on the right side. Taking this into account, Nel pointed out that, given Pistorius’s proximity to the right side of the bed at the time that he went to close the sliding doors, there was “absolutely no way” that he could have avoided hearing Steenkamp as she got up to use the bathroom.
Pistorius agreed that yes he “would have sensed her,” but suggested that she could have rolled over to the left side without him realizing.
According to Pistorius, Steenkamp had cooked a chicken stir-fry dish for the couple at around 8pm, seven hours shy of the time she was killed, which contradicts pathologist Gert Saayman’s analysis in which he concluded that she had most probably eaten 2-3 hours prior to her death.
“Your life is about you, Mr. Pistorius”
Nel has been merciless in his attempt to keep the public perception of Pistorius firmly in the state’s corner, characterizing him as a reckless, possessive, egoist with a fondness for firearms, shirking responsibility and preserving his own interests.
Nel took great care in repeatedly reminding Pistorius that his main priority—in his messages to Reeva and his behavior at Tasha’s restaurant—was always self-preservation. He also strongly questioned whether or not his so-called love for Steenkamp was genuine.
“We did a search,” Nel continued. “The phrase ‘I love you’ appears twice on her phone, to her mother.”
“Because it was all about Mr. Pistorius. Your life is about you.”
Nel also referred to Pistorius’s tearful apology to Reeva’s family as a ‘spectacle.’
The athlete told the court that he never got the opportunity to tell Steenkamp he loved her, and that he would have liked to have met her parents.
“I don’t think they will ever want to meet me,” he said.
(In another instance, Pistorius denied asking friend Darren Fresco to take the blame for him when Pistorius accidentally shot a firearm in a public restaurant in January 2013, although he did make mention of it in a Whatsapp message to Reeva later that day.)
“So you see, that is a good example of you not taking responsibility.” Nel says.
At this stage, the Paralympian’s responses have done little to redeem him. The number of concessions and inconsistencies in today’s testimony alone will mean that his counsel will have many sleepless nights of coaching ahead of them if they want to remedy his image while he’s still on the stand. Pistorius has twice acknowledged that he handled firearms recklessly, both at Tasha’s restaurant and on his trip to the Vaal River, which seems bizarre considering that he has pleaded not guilty to both of the charges. On several occasions Pistorius has even pointed out factual inaccuracies put forth by his own defense lawyer Barry Roux, claiming that he did not employ a double tap technique during the shooting as Roux had previously stated, and that he “[didn’t] know why [Roux] said that.”
No reason to shoot
Earlier, Pistorius made a glaring admission that he had “no reason” to fire four bullets through his bathroom door on Valentine’s Day 2013, and that he had pulled the trigger instinctually without thinking.
“So there was no reason for you to shoot?” Nel asked. “That’s correct my lady,” Pistorius replied.
Pistorius also claims that he “did not fire deliberately,” which one can assume was said in order to undermine the state’s attempt to go after him based on the fact that, even if he had no intention of killing Steenkamp, that he still intended to kill the perceived intruder, which is still murder. Considering his extensive knowledge of firearms and ammunition, which has been demonstrated both in the controversial Sky News video and in the testimony of gun salesman Sean Renns, this admission may come back to hurt him when Judge Masipa considers all the information brought forward.
There have been over 1,700 Whatsapp messages submitted as evidence in the trial of Oscar Pistorius, but the most crucial of these may be the one in which Steenkamp tells Pistorius: “I’m scared of you sometimes.”
She also made references to the instances in which Pistorius had seemingly attempted to control her behavior, asking her not to chew gun in public, and berating her for bothering him with the accents she had been practicing in preparation for an acting role.
Pistorius played down these accusations, suggesting that Steenkamp had “exaggerated” some things in her messages because she was upset. He also said he never picked on her as she stated, nor did he ever snap at her in any way.
“I didn’t treat her badly,” he added. “Reeva was never scared of me.”
Earlier on in the case, Pistorius’s ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor testified that he had screamed at her on multiple occasions, which he denied.
Bitch, don’t kill my vibe
In a more humorous moment during the trial (although it is completely inappropriate to laugh in the situation, Judge Masipa warned), Nel asked Pistorius about a line Steenkamp wrote in which she says: “You make me happy 90 percent of the time and I think we are amazing together, but I am not some other bitch you may know trying to kill your vibe,” making reference to a song by hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar. According to their correspondence, Steenkamp objected to him playing "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" on the car radio earlier that day. "The words of the song upset her," said Pistorius.
Pistorius is facing two counts of reckless firearm handling in addition to a charger of premeditated murder. If convicted, the double-amputee could face 25 years or more in prison.
Pistorius will return to the stand tomorrow at 3:30a.m. ET.