For two months, witnesses and experts have testified in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. Soon, a South African judge will determine if the Olympian intentionally murdered his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
The trial is nearing its end, as the final witnesses are scheduled to be called in mid-May. Both sides will give their closing arguments, and Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa will make a final decision, though her deliberation could last a few weeks. Proceedings began on March 3.
The defense is looking to prove that Pistorius was unaware the person he shot and killed through his bathroom door was his girlfriend. According to the prosecution, Pistorius murdered Steenkamp, and the couple got into a fight, prior to the shooting.
Throughout the case, witnesses have testified as to their recollection of the events on Valentine’s Day 2013. Most recently, Pistorius’s neighbors Michael Nhlengethwa and his wife Eontle Nhlengethwa claimed to only have heard a man crying on the night of Steenkamp’s death. Previous neighbors who testified for the prosecution stated that they heard a woman screaming on the night of Steenkamp’s death, indicating a possible argument. Pistorius has argued that his high-pitched screams sounded like that of a female.
While those who live by Pistorius will play a role in the verdict, the Olympian’s testimony will be a determining factor in the judge’s final decision. Pistorius took the witness stand a month into the trial, and might have hurt himself in the process.
“I was shocked when I heard he was taking the witness stand,” famed defense attorney Barry Slotnick told International Business Times. “I’ve won a large amount of cases. Most of those cases are based upon the fact that the defendant didn’t take the witness stand.”
As he was questioned by prosecutor Gerrie Nel, Pistorius revealed a few inconsistencies from his original account of the night. The double-amputee first claimed he intentionally shot what he thought was an intruder. On the stand, however, Pistorius said he didn’t intend to fire his gun and kill the person on the other side of the door. The defendant also told police that he screamed for help on the balcony, following the shooting. In court, Pistorius admitted that a large fan in his house would’ve blocked him from running onto the balcony.
Pistorious’ contradictions, though, might not be his only problem. Since the trial began, he’s been an emotional wreck in the courtroom, crying on several occasions, and even vomiting. Instead of evoking sympathy from the judge, Pistorius’ actions could hurt his case.
“I don’t think tearful moments are to his benefit,” Slotnick continued. “I think that judges looking at this will be offended by what appears to be the machinations of a person who is charged with killing his girlfriend. Those are very serious charges.”
“He may be putting himself in a jail cell, as a result of his attempt to cause the judge to feel sympathy for him.”
A few reports about Pistorius’s behavior have made him anything but a sympathetic figure. South African columnist Jani Allan claimed that Pistorius took acting lessons before testifying in court. Now, a close friend of Steenkamp says the 27-year-old recently made an insensitive remark to her, during an adjournment.
“My client, Kim Myers, was approached by Oscar Pistorius in court today and, in a very sinister tone, was asked, ‘How can you sleep at night?’ ” Ian Levitt, Myers’ lawyer, said in a statement.
Pistorius could have been responding to public statements made by the Myers family, though he has denied making the remark. The alleged comments might not have much of an effect on the trial, but Levitt has said he’s been in contact with the national prosecuting authorities and the investigating officer, in regards to the matter. Pistorius has also denied taking acting lessons, and Slotnick doesn’t think the rumors will have any bearing on the case.
The trial resumed on Monday after a 17-day break.