Oscar’s trial poses questions


Graeme Hosken

THE beginning of the most talked-about trial in the world has raised more questions than answers – which could either sink Oscar Pistorius or bolster his defence.

After a week of testimony by state witnesses and rigorous cross-examination by Pistorius’s defence, critical issues still have to be resolved:

  • Why did a tearful Pistorius allegedly say that everything was “fine” or “okay” when a security supervisor called him at his home on the Silverwood Estate in Pretoria shortly after the fatal shooting?
  • Why, if terrified and overcome with grief, did Pistorius call the estate manager, Johan Stander?
  • Why, according to neighbour Dr Johan Stipp, did Stander seem nonchalant about the shooting and not call paramedics?
  • And why did Stander tell Stipp less than an hour after the shooting to expect a call from Pistorius’s lawyer ?

If not adequately addressed by the defence these questions, along with the testimony by the estate’s security supervisor, Pieter Baba, could boost the state’s case.

Baba will continue his testimony in the Pretoria High Court today.

The state alleges Pistorius intentionally murdered Reeva Steenkamp. But the paralympian athlete says he killed Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder.

On Friday Baba, under crossexamination by Pistorius’s counsel, Advocate Barry Roux, was adamant that, although the Blade Runner cried when he called him after the shooting, he had also insisted everything was in order.

“When I heard that and heard him crying I knew everything was not okay,” Baba said. “When Stander arrived, I could see on [Stander’s] face that something had happened .

“When I saw Pistorius with Reeva, I got a terrible fright to think that he had just told me that everything was okay.”

Shannon Hoctor, University of KwaZulu-Natal law school professor said yesterday the timing of the phone calls on the night of the shooting, and who had or had not been contacted and when, would be argued by both sides.

“They are important points. The state will use [them] to outline its case of premeditated murder, while the defence will use it to show Pistorius was in a complete state of disorientation.”

He said the case was heavily focused on facts, “which are being interrogated to the nth degree”.

“The legal argument will come later … At the moment it is a bit like building a brick wall.

“Once the facts are in place then you apply the law. There has not been too much in the way of specific arguments … It will for the foreseeable future be the testing of which version will fly,” Hoctor said.

“The big issue will be [Pistorius’s] state of mind – which is proved on a basis of inferential reasoning. What the court will do is draw inferences from the facts of the case, which is why the facts are so important.

“The state must develop a case of beyond reasonable doubt that when Pistorius shot Steenkamp it was with the intent to kill her.

“The state is trying to build its case of a person who was familiar with firearms, who knew how they worked and was liable to getting angry quickly and doing irrational things,” Hoctor said.

Live TV coverage and tweets updating Pistorius’s every twitch, gesture and tear are expected to continue this week.


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