Oscar Pistorius Trial: Latest Updates, Comments, Details on Reeva Steenkamp Case

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured Columnist IVMarch 21, 2017

Updates from Sunday, March 23

Reuters' Staff (via Yahoo! Sports) reports the murder trial surrounding Oscar Pistorius has been extended:

The Olympic and Paralympic athlete, who is accused of murdering girlfriend Steenkamp on February 14, 2013, is set to enter the fourth week of his trial that has gripped the world.

It was reported that Pistorius would take to the stand in the coming weeks after the prosecution revealed that they had almost wrapped up their case, but there will now be a one-week recess before the trial continues – resuming from April 14 until May 16.

Updates from Thursday, March 20

According to Sky News, Pistorius plans on selling the house where the incident occurred:

Updates from Wednesday, March 19

A big day arrived in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial on Wednesday, as ballistics expert Captain Christian Mangena, blood spatter expert Colonel van der Nest and iPad investigator Colonel Mike Sales all took to the witness box.

Pistorius denies a charge of premeditated murder against Reeva Steenkamp, whom he shot dead on Valentine's Day, 2013. The ballistics report was expected to shed light on whether he did—as claimed—unwittingly kill his girlfriend.

Mangena began by outlining the position he feels Steenkamp's body was in at the point of each gunshot, per Sky News' Alex Crawford and BBC News' Andrew Harding:

A key question asked to Mangena by Prosecutor Gerrie Nel regarded the distance from the toilet cubicle door that the gunshots were fired.

Pistorius claims he was stood well away from the door, and Mangena did not disprove that theory:

Defence lawyer Barry Roux was next to quiz the witness, but he appeared to run into early trouble regarding the speed at which Pistorius claims he pulled the trigger.

The speed at which the four shots were fired is crucial, because any delay between shots would likely have seen Steenkamp scream:

The Defence claims Steenkamp was leaning forward, not standing, when Pistorius opened fire. This, according to the Defence, explains how Steenkamp received the four wounds from quick-fire gunshots.

Mangena disagreed.

Roux also attempted to prove the findings of his own ballistics experts were more reliable than Mangena:

Roux began to press home the point that Pistorius' version of events was probable, attempting to highlight holes in the Prosecution in the process, per Eyewitness News' Barry Bateman:

Back came Prosecutor Nel, showing that the bullet holes in the door would not be the correct height to hit Steenkamp in the hip if she was in the position claimed by the Defence.

He also recalled the witness statement of neighbour Michelle Burger, who said she heard one shot, a delay, and then three more (inconsistent with the Defence's story):

Mangena was then excused, replaced on the stand by blood spatter expert Colonel van der Nest, who investigated blood stains around the house, as well as looking for any signs of a fight.

He began by ruling out any evidence of a struggle between Pistorius and Steenkamp, saying blood came from arterial spurts:

However, van der Nest also suggested Steenkamp's clothes showed no signs that she was using the toilet at the time of her shooting:

Roux spent little time cross-examining van der Nest, instead allowing Colonel Mike Sales to stand as the next witness. Sales went to the USA with Pistorius' iPad:

Sales downloaded Pistorius' iPad history to see which sites he looked at on the day of Steenkamp's shooting. His findings appeared to show Pistorius had viewed porn on the night of the incident:

Somewhat surprisingly, Prosecutor Nel requested an adjournment at that stage until Monday morning, claiming the State will only call four or five more witnesses before closing its case.

The judge agreed. Court adjourned until Monday.


Updates from Tuesday, March 18

Day 12 of the trial into Oscar Pistorius' shooting of Reeva Steenkamp commenced with an unusual request as Defence lawyer Barry Roux was asked for his autograph, reported by Gerald Imray of AP Sports in South Africa:

Pistorius denies premeditated murder, claiming he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder. As per usual, he was early to court on Tuesday, and the scene was set by Sky News producer Oliver Leach and BBC News' Andrew Harding:

There was a lengthy delay to the start of proceedings as police photographer—and Monday's witness—Bennie van Staden gathered his photographic evidence, per Sky News' Alex Crawford:

Eventually van Staden arrived, ready for further cross-examination from Roux, who instantly attempted to prove evidence had been moved during van Staden's photo-taking process.

He referred to the placing of the cricket bat, which appeared to have moved from one photo to the next:

Roux also tried to mock his witness when van Staden appeared to confuse the front and back of a cricket bat.

However, the lawyer pushed his line of questioning too far, earning a rebuke from the judge. Eyewitness News' Barry Bateman helped provide part of the exchange:

Roux continued to point out small discrepancies in van Staden's version of events, attempting once again to discredit police evidence:

Intriguingly, focus then switched to the hole in the bedroom door (resembling a bullet hole). The Prosecution has yet to pursue the damage, so Roux pre-empted it by quizzing van Staden:

More accusations of tampering by Roux, who switched focus to the side of Pistorius' bed:

Following a brief lunch break, Roux stepped up his attack on van Staden, highlighting several further issues with his photo collection. His most emphatic point related to photos of where the cricket bat would have hit the toilet cubicle door:

Back came Prosecutor Gerrie Nel, quickly undermining Roux's insinuation that it was a crowded crime scene:

Nel then suffered a blow when he asked for court to adjourn for the day, insisting his next witness, Ballistics expert Captain Christian Mangena, would need an entire day to go through his evidence:

Witness Mangena, who has studied the angles of the bullets based on the holes in the toilet cubicle door, said he received the door one day after he took over the case, on March 8, and instantly refitted it.

He then read out the measurements of each bullet hole height from the floor, revealing in his findings that three out of the four bullets fired hit their target:

Mangena spoke of bruising to Steenkamp's back, something which may prove crucial later:

Court adjourned until Wednesday morning.


Updates from Monday, March 17

The third week, and Day 11, of the trial into Oscar Pistorius' shooting of Reeva Steenkamp began with a new witness: Sean Patrick Rens, manager of the Firearms Training Academy in Walkerville, Gauteng.

Pistorius denies a charge of premeditated murder, claiming he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder on the night of her death.

Rens began by reading an invoice of a large order placed by Pistorius, later cancelled following the shooting of Steenkamp. Sky News' Alex Crawford provided the details:

Rens was then asked by Prosecutor Gerrie Nel to read out specific questions and answers from Pistorius' competency test, which an individual must take before purchasing a gun.

The questions were based on a similar scenario to that painted by Pistorius of the night of Steenkamp's death. Crawford and BBC News' Andrew Harding provided the key responses:

In a further attempt to advance the portrayal of Pistorius as a gun-happy individual, Nel had Rens recall a previous conversation he had held with the accused. Eyewitness News' Barry Bateman reported:

Defence lawyer Barry Roux chose only a brief cross-examination of Rens, before Bennie Van Staden—police photographer—would be next to be called to the stand.

The timeline of police photos in this case has been questioned by the Defence, but van Staden began confidently:

Bateman noted an interesting detail as van Staden flicked through his images, highlighting a photo that appeared to support the Defence's claims that Pistorius had tried to kick the door down with his prosthetic legs:

Prosecutor Nel then allowed van Staden to walk the court through the house via his pictures, once again pointing out damage to the bedroom door. It is something that is sure to become a significant factor later in the case:

Van Staden's pictures showed that the duvet cover had been moved. He quickly explained that he had moved it in order to continue his investigation, pre-empting the Defence's expected line of questioning:

Further notes of interest were made, including evidence of blood in the main bedroom:

The overall point of Nel's examination of van Staden was to show his work was thorough and that he did not tamper with the crime scene prior to taking photos:

He also pointed out that Pistorius' brother, Carl, had removed gun cartridges from the house safe in the aftermath of the incident:

After lunch, Defence lawyer Roux began his questioning of van Staden, seemingly attempting to find a hole in his investigative techniques, rather than any flaws with the evidence given.

Roux suggested van Staden had left photos out of his portfolio and will no doubt resume his line of questioning on Tuesday, per Bateman:

Court adjourned until Tuesday morning.


Original Text

The third week of Oscar Pistorius' trial begins on March 17 and is set to garner major attention following the dramatic events of the previous seven days.

Currently standing trial for the alleged murder of Reeva Steenkamp, Pistorius' defence is headed up by lawyer Barry Roux, who leads the argument the accused mistook his girlfriend for an intruder on Valentine's Day 2013. 

Pretoria's North Gauteng High Court is the venue for a case that continues to grip interest well beyond South Africa. Here's a recap of the key details from the last week.

Roux began Day 7 with a cross-examination of pathologist Professor Gert Saayman. After previously suggesting Steenkamp's multiple gun wounds would have stopped her screaming, the lawyer asked Saayman to explain exactly what effect each bullet would have had on the deceased at the moment of impact.

Eyewitness News' Barry Bateman covered the particulars:

The results of this conversation proved unhelpful to Roux's case, per Alex Crawford of Sky:

Saayman then suggested the partly digested food in Steenkamp's stomach meant she was unlikely to have gone to bed five hours before her murder, as originally suggested by Pistorius. The pathologist continued to contradict the accused's defence with a medical response, something Roux and his team struggled to battle against, per Andrew Harding of the BBC:

Pistorius' bathroom door was brought into the courtroom on Day 8. This was examined in a bid to determine whether Pistorius was on his prosthetic legs when allegedly breaking into the bathroom with a cricket bat, demonstrated by Forensic expert Lt. Col. Vermeulen and detailed via Bateman and Harding:

Vermeulen was cross-examined the following day by Roux, who aimed to prove the door had been tampered with, as Pistorius claimed he was wearing his legs when entering the bathroom. In typically ruthless fashion, Roux zoned in on a missing part of the door, saying Pistorius tried to kick it down. Crawford summarised a one-sided exchange:

A mix-up in court then proceeded to grab many headlines as a photo of Steenkamp's deceased body was accidentally shown on screen, causing Pistorius to vomit, detailed by Tom Peck and Maria Tadeo of The Independent:

Ms Steenkamp's body was shown for just a fraction of a second, prompting loud winces in court as screens in court rapidly scrolled from a picture of Pistorius' bathroom to another of the athlete's blood-stained prosthetic legs.

Unfortunately, the incident repeated itself shortly afterwards, per Crawford:

Col. Van Rensburg was called into the dock and spoke over images taken from Pistorius' house on the night Steenkamp died. Originally in charge of the crime scene, van Rensburg aimed to deter suggestions evidence has been tampered with, while also offering his thoughts on the logistics of Pistorius' claim he believed Steenkamp was an intruder, per Crawford and Harding:

The week concluded with Roux cross-examining van Rensburg's statement and showing the colonel a series of similar images. He appeared to be aiming to belittle the witness in a game of "spot the difference," per Harding:

Court was then adjourned until Monday, March 17. The next week is sure to raise many more important points that could alter the outcome of this case. Pistorius continues to appear emotional in court and is contradicted by Roux's aggressiveness toward witnesses.

Expect the defence lawyer to continue his assault heading into next week's exchanges.



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