PRETORIA, August 7, 2014: A South African prosecutor branded Oscar Pistorius “deceitful” and insisted the Paralympian cannot avoid a conviction for murdering his glamorous model girlfriend, as the state closed its case against him Thursday. “Pitbull” prosecutor Gerrie Nel said that even if the court accepts Pistorius’s claim he killed Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year believing she was an intruder, “he cannot escape” a conviction for murdering with intent.
Ending the first of two days of concluding arguments in the gripping five-month murder trial, Nel said Pistorius’s efforts to concoct an alibi had led to a “snowball effect” of lies requiring more lies to back them up. “In an attempt to tailor his version to support his plea explanation, he tangled himself in a web,” said Nel.
In a meticulous review of evidence presented by almost 40 witnesses, Nel said Oscar Pistorius, 27, was guilty of “a baker’s dozen” of misleading statements. He also pointed to state experts’ testimony that Steenkamp had food in her stomach when she died and that neighbours heard a woman screaming to show the star sprinter was lying.
But, he said, even if Judge Thokozile Masipa believes Pistorius’s claim the accidentally shot at an intruder, he must be found guilty. “We argue that even in the event of the court accepting the accused’s evidence that he thought there was an intruder in the toilet, he cannot escape a conviction on murder with dolus directus (direct intent).”
“Our argument is that the accused be convicted for murder.” Pistorius, a double-amputee star sprinter known as the “Blade Runner”, has denied the charge during the trial in which he has at times sat weeping and vomiting in the dock as grisly details of Steenkamp’s death were presented.
His legal team — led by top defence lawyer Barry Roux — has sought to convince Masipa that Pistorius shot his girlfriend by accident, believing her to be an intruder. The defence has sought to portray him 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.
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.
- ‘Devoid of any truth’ -
The athlete appeared at Pretoria High Court for the start of closing arguments wearing glasses and a dark suit, clenching his jaw as Nel accused him of concocting an alibi to avoid justice.
“It is the state’s case the accused was a deceitful witness,” said Nel, describing Pistorius’s testimony as “absolutely devoid of any truth”. He said there were “glaring contradictions” in the Paralympic gold medallist’s story.
Initially, Pistorius said he shot Steenkamp through a toilet door in his upmarket Pretoria home, believing her to be an intruder. However under intense cross-examination, he said he accidentally shot his girlfriend as a result of deep-seated anxiety caused by his disability and did not mean to kill anyone.
Nel also said Pistorius had anxiety “on call”, suggesting the runner manufactured a fear of crime to suit his version. 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.
On Thursday, Reeva’s father Barry Steenkamp and Osca’s father Henke Pistorius, Oscar’s father made their first appearances in court. Pistorius faces a minimum of 25 years in jail if he is convicted of premeditated murder. He also faces three separate gun-related charges.
Even if he is not found guilty of premeditated murder, Pistorius could still be convicted and jailed on alternative charges of murder or culpable homicide. Pistorius rose to international fame when he competed alongside able-bodied runners at the 2012 London Olympics.
Once a poster boy for disabled sport, he has been stripped of his lucrative endorsement deals by global brands and has withdrawn from all competitions. Once concluding arguments are finished, the judge is expected to adjourn the case for a couple of weeks before delivering her verdict.