Updates from Thursday, July 3
The trial of Oscar Pistorius will resume on Monday, July 7, after a day in which prosecutor Gerrie Nel entered into a spiky exchange with the person who is expected to be the defence's last witness.
Pistorius maintains he shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp by accident on Valentine's Day 2013, but the prosecution is seeking to prove premeditated murder.
You can follow the trial live right here (subject to your territory):
Professor Wayne Derman—South Africa's paralympian team doctor—returned to the witness box on Thursday, entering into a tetchy dialogue with Nel over the thought process—or lack thereof—that Pistorius underwent before firing his weapon.
Derman began the day under the lead of the defence team, explaining why Pistorius would be more likely to confront—rather than evade—danger due to the anxiety caused by his disability.
He claimed Pistorius would have reacted without thinking to the threat of a potential intruder, which supports the accused's own version of events. However, BBC News' Andrew Harding predicted prosecutor Nel would circle back to that claim:
The witness produced a lengthy list of reasons for why Pistorius reacted the way he did on the night in question, firing four times at an unknown target.
He even suggested Pistorius—upon hearing a noise inside the toilet cubicle—reacted automatically with fire because he is trained in athletics to react to the sound of the gun. EyeWitness News' Barry Bateman noted:
A section of the state psychologist report was read by the defence, highlighting that Pistorius feels in great danger without his prosthetic legs. Derman concluded that his natural reaction—a "startle" response—was the cause for Steenkamp's death:
Nel then got his chance to quiz the witness, instantly suggesting Derman's evidence comes laced with bias because Pistorius is his patient of six years:
After a thorny exchange between the pair over the legitimacy of Derman's evidence, Nel then drove rapidly toward the key issue: Derman's claim that "the thinking brain would stop" in the moments before Pistorius shot Steenkamp, instead engaging the "startle" response.
Derman claimed the first "startle" response came when Pistorius—still in the bedroom at this point—froze upon hearing the bathroom window open. Nel queried whether it was still a "startle" response to grab his gun:
Harding felt Derman was being evasive over how long a "startle" response can last:
Following an adjournment for lunch, Nel and Derman locked horns once again, entering a dispute over whether Pistorius ran down the corridor between bedroom and bathroom.
Derman eventually demonstrated his version visually, but his sharp response said everything for the fractious relationship with Nel:
Advancing through the chain of events that led to Pistorius firing his gun, Derman explained that the sound of the toilet door closing was the second of three "startles."
With little progress made, focus turned to the third "startle," the sound of the magazine rack moving from inside the toilet cubicle. Pistorius has previously claimed he mistook this noise for the cubicle door being opened.
Nel pushed Derman to explain why Pistorius fired his gun at that moment. It is a key question because Pistorius insists there was no thought process—he just fired automatically:
Nel then requested an adjournment until Monday, revealing that he will call one of the authors of the psychiatric report. The request was granted.
Updates from Wednesday, July 2
Oscar Pistorius' manager, Peet van Zyl, faced a stiff—albeit brief—cross-examination from prosecuting lawyer Gerrie Nel on Wednesday as the state continued its attempt to prove the accused guilty of premeditated murder.
Pistorius shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead in his own home on Valentine's Day 2013, but claims he mistook her for an intruder.
Within five minutes of resumption on Wednesday, Nel had led Van Zyl into a trap. The witness had claimed Steenkamp was the first girlfriend for whom Pistorius had arranged a trip, but Nel produced evidence to the contrary.
Nel produced an email in which Pistorius provided passport details of ex Samantha Taylor to Van Zyl, stating: "We are sorting s--t out." BBC News' Andrew Harding and EyeWitness News' Barry Bateman provide the details:
That set the tone for Nel's line of questioning, which attempted to prove Van Zyl knew more about Pistorius' relationships than he cared to let on.
Nel wanted Van Zyl to open up on the potentially stormy relationship between Taylor and Pistorius, but the witness proved frustrating:
Van Zyl was then excused, prompting defence lawyer Barry Roux to turn to Pistorius' mental evaluation report.
Roux's aim was to show the report could be interpreted in several ways, either for or against Pistorius, but one line in particular did catch the attention:
Bateman provided an image of the report, the conclusion of which does not aid the defence:
Roux confirmed he would not cross-examine the evaluation, instead calling Professor Wayne Derman—South Africa's paralympian team doctor—to the stand. Harding noted the following:
Derman has known Pistorius for six years, so he strengthened the defence's case when he described the unease felt by Pistorius on a daily basis. He also explained that disabled individuals are more prone to a fight-over-flight reaction to danger:
The afternoon largely played host to bits of house-keeping, after which court adjourned until 8.30am BST on Thursday, per Amanda Watson of The Citizen:
Updates from Tuesday, July 1
The trial into Oscar Pistorius' shooting of Reeva Steenkamp entered a fifth month on Tuesday, as the defence continued to call its final few witnesses, including the accused manager.
Pistorius is defending a charge of premeditated murder, claiming he thought Steenkamp was an intruder when he shot four times on Valentine's Day, 2013.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel took his chance to cross-examine acoustic expert Ivan Lin on Tuesday morning, after Lin had testified it would be "unlikely" that neighbours could confidently declare they heard Steenkamp screaming on the night of the incident.
Nel instantly began attempting to pick holes in Lin's methods, in relation to the neighbouring houses of the Stipps and the Burger/Johnsons, both of whom claim they heard Steenkamp scream. EyeWitness News' Barry Bateman provides the main points:
Nel and Lin then entered a technical debate, which reached little conclusion, and it encapsulated a frustrating witness for the state, as noted by Harding:
Pistorius' manager, Peet van Zyl, was next to be called to the witness box. He instantly gave examples of Pistorius' constant state of unease when it came to danger. Van Zyl also spoke of the accused's loving relationship with Steenkamp.
He remembers only two times in their entire working relationship when Pistorius lost his temper:
Van Zyl then listed future plans Pistorius and Steenkamp had, revealing trips and concerts they had booked for dates after the night of Steenkamp's death. He spoke of the magnificent financial future ahead of Pistorius, who was set to be a brand ambassador for life.
Harding and Bateman were both struck by the sudden clarification of what the accused has lost:
Following a brief break, Nel stepped up to cross-examine Van Zyl, instantly reminding him of a very high-profile moment when Pistorius lost his cool:
He then quizzed Van Zyl on a series of subjects, including a report that a room-mate moved away from Pistorius due to his constant rows with ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor. Pistorius has previously denied ever raising his voice with Taylor.
When Van Zyl avoided the question, Nel became confrontational with his witness:
Court then adjourned for the day upon the request of Nel, who had not been prepared for Van Zyl to be called to the stand. Court resumes at 9.30am on Wednesday.
Updates from Monday, June 30
Oscar Pistorius discovered the findings of his 30-day psychiatric assessment on Monday, as the trial resumed into his shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Pistorius claims he shot Steenkamp by accident on Valentine's Day 2013, but the state is attempting to prove premeditated murder.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel read out the crucial findings of the evaluation, per BBC News' Andrew Harding:
Defence lawyer Barry Roux moved things swiftly on, calling the first witness of the day: Dr Gerry Versfeld.
The doctor had amputated Pistorius' legs as a child, and he quoted Pistorius speaking of the vulnerability he suffers due to his lack of balance, per EyeWitness News' Barry Bateman:
Versfeld also walked Judge Thokozile Masipa through a visual demonstration of the discomfort felt by Pistorius, claiming he would be in great danger if ambushed while walking without his prosthetic legs:
It was a demonstration that found little favour with Prosecutor Nel, who quickly reminded the court that Pistorius had claimed to have "run" back to the bedroom after firing his weapon four times:
Versfeld was later released from the witness box, at which stage an argument broke out between Roux and Nel over an electric extension cord.
The defence had requested the cord from the police but was told they did not have it. Roux asked the court to order delivery of the cord:
Roux then called the defence's next witness, acoustic expert Ivan Lin, who was asked to test the difference between a male and female scream at distance.
Part of the state's case is that Steenkamp was heard screaming for help on the night of the incident. The defence claims the screams came from Pistorius. Harding summed up the importance of this witness:
Following an adjournment for lunch, Lin attempted to explain in technical detail the many factors that can affect how a scream sounds from distance. Harding provided the key summary of Lin's findings:
Court adjourned until Tuesday morning.
Oscar Pistorius returned to court in Pretoria on Monday after completing a 30-day psychiatric assessment at the Weskoppies mental-health hospital.
The South African athlete—universally known as the "Blade Runner" due to his prosthetic legs—will soon face Judge Thokozile Masipa's verdict as to whether he knowingly murdered girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day 2013.
Pistorius, who claims he mistook Steenkamp for a burglar before shooting his firearm four times, has already faced a barrage of questions from prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who aims to prove the 27-year-old's decision to shoot his lover was premeditated.
The result of Pistorius' testing will be heard in court on Monday, which—among other factors—will help Masipa establish the level of anxiety suffered by the accused.
Nel was forced to call for an assessment of Pistorius' mental health after expert witness Merryll Vorster claimed Pistorius' decision to shoot Steenkamp "should be seen in context of his anxiety," per BBC News.
As such, a team of four have monitored Pistorius across the past six weeks to see if he shows signs of generalised anxiety disorder, noted by Richard Hartley-Parkinson of the Scottish Daily Record.
Barry Bateman of Eyewitness News suggests the trial was nearly delayed further, while also indicating defence lawyer Barry Roux will opt to call forward additional witnesses:
Whether Roux chooses to do so will most likely depend on the findings within Pistorius' mental report. Nel will receive an opportunity to question any further individuals called to the stand as the trial enters its final phase.
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