Oscar Pistorius out of legal options as request to appeal rejected
Former star athlete loses bid to cut 13-year jail term for murder of Reeva Steenkamp
Oscar Pistorius verdict: six questions for Judge Masipa
Oscar Pistorius will finally learn his fate on Thursday morning as Judge Thokozile Masipa declares her verdict in what has been dubbed the trial of the century. Throughout the trial, which began six months ago, Masipa has given away little about what direction she might take, interrupting court proceedings only very occasionally. She and her assessors have heard from 37 witnesses, including Pistorius himself, and have 4,000 pages of evidence to consider. The judge will ultimately have to decide what was going through Pistorius's head when he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp four times through a closed toilet door on Valentine's Day last year. Here are six questions she will have taken into consideration before reaching her verdict:
Has Pistorius 'tailored' his testimony?
The prosecution has accused Pistorius of "tailoring" his evidence, although the athlete argued that these were genuine mistakes. For example, in his bail statement, Pistorius said he "went onto the balcony" to retrieve a fan but in court he said he did not go fully out onto the balcony. He initially said he "whispered" to Steenkamp to get down and call the police, but later denied whispering and said he spoke in a "low tone". These were important details as they formed the foundations of his claim that he never saw Steenkamp leave their bed to go to the toilet. The judge will have to decide if these are reasonable mistakes to make or whether, as prosecutor Gerrie Nel argues, Pistorius was "thinking of something that never happened" and struggling to "keep up with an untruth".
Is Pistorius's version of events even possible?
The athlete struggled to explain why some parts of his testimony contradicted the state's evidence. Pathologist Gert Saayman said it was probable – although not certain – that Steenkamp had eaten about two hours before her death, around the time a neighbour said she heard an argument at the house. Pistorius, who claimed they were both asleep at that time, admitted: "I don't have an explanation for it." The judge will have to decide if it is possible that Steenkamp got out of bed and went to the toilet without Pistorius hearing or seeing her go, while Nel says the most "improbable" part of the athlete's story is that Steenkamp never uttered a word from the toilet before she was shot.
How reliable is the police evidence?
The prosecution has used police crime scene photographs to suggest that Pistorius's story is a lie. For example, if his duvet was on the bedroom floor, as it is in one photograph, the athlete would struggle to convince the court he thought Steenkamp was in bed. However, the defence has proven that the police moved items around in the house that night and Pistorius insists that his bedroom was not how he left it. During the closing speeches, the defence also showed the court a photograph of a police officer – who had specifically told the court he had not touched anything at the crime scene – touching items in Pistorius's bedroom. Defence lawyer Barry Roux told the court there was "no respect" for the crime scene by investigators, making it difficult for Judge Masipa to convict Pistorius purely based on the evidence provided by police.
Did Pistorius and Steenkamp argue before the shooting?
Police IT expert Captain Francois Moller told the court he examined thousands of text messages sent between Steenkamp and Pistorius, of which 90 per cent showed a "loving, normal" relationship. However, a small number portrayed Pistorius as a controlling and jealous boyfriend. In one message, sent a few weeks before her death, Steenkamp wrote: "I'm scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and how you will react to me." Nevertheless, in Steenkamp's Valentine's Day card to Pistorius, which he opened after her death, she declared her love for him for the first time. Neighbours say they heard a woman's screams before the sound of gunshots, but Pistorius strenuously denies they had been arguing. Without a fight, there appears to be no motive for Pistorius to shoot his girlfriend deliberately. Masipa will have to decide if it is possible that the witnesses mistook Pistorius's terrified shouts and screams for that of a woman.
If Pistorius believed Steenkamp was an intruder, did he act reasonably?
Even if the judge believes that Pistorius thought Steenkamp was an intruder, he could still face a murder conviction. Pistorius insists that he fired the gun "without thinking" but the state's ballistics evidence suggests there was a pause in between some of the shots. Pistorius initially told the court he had "aimed" at the bathroom door, but later said he did not. The judge will have to decide if Pistorius: planned to kill before firing the gun, which could amount to premeditated murder; intended to kill as he fired the shots, which could amount to murder; or whether he acted negligently, which could amount to culpable homicide (see below for what each verdict means).
Did Pistorius have a "heightened response" to danger?
A mental health evaluation found that Pistorius did not suffer from a mental illness or defect that would have affected his actions on the night he shot Steenkamp. However, his lawyers say his disability, upbringing and experience as a victim of crime meant he had a heightened response to perceived danger. Roux insists that Pistorius pulled the trigger "reflexively" and without thinking because he was in such a state of fear, suggesting an "involuntary action" defence. But he has said that if Masipa cannot accept this, she should see his actions as "putative self-defence", meaning that Pistorius took reasonable means to defend himself against a genuinely held fear of attack. If Masipa accepts either one of these defences, the athlete could walk free.
Here are the charges Judge Masipa will rule on in her verdict:
Premeditated murder: Pistorious currently faces a possible mandatory life sentence for premeditated murder – usually 25 years unless there are extraordinary circumstances. However, the legal definition of "premeditated" is a grey area. Eric Macramalla, a legal analyst at TSN, says it is usually reserved for more "robust planning" and generally does not include "an intent that materialised right before a crime was committed". He points to a case in South Africa, State v Raath, in which a father forced his son to remove a firearm from a safe to kill the son's mother. The court ruled that this was not sufficient to constitute premeditated murder.
Murder: If Judge Masipa does not believe Pistorius planned to kill Steenkamp, she could still convict him for the lesser charge of murder, says Macramalla. This would mean Pistorius intended to kill Steenkamp or another human being, with no planning element needed, and would result in a compulsory sentence of 15 years.
Culpable homicide: Even if Pistorius is acquitted for murder, he could still face a conviction of culpable homicide, meaning he "negligently" killed Steenkamp, explains Macramalla. Sentencing is discretionary, varying from fines to prison time of up to 15 years. Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, legal analyst for the Washington Times, says the judge would need to assign a degree of negligence. "The higher the negligence, the longer the prison term," he says.
Discharging firearms in public: Pistorius is also charged with two counts of discharging a firearm in public. He allegedly fired a gun at a restaurant on 11 January 2013 and again through a car sunroof on 30 November 2012. He could face five years in prison on each count.
Illegal possession of ammunition: Pistorius has admitted being in possession of ammunition for a firearm for which he does not have a licence. The prescribed sentence on this count is 15 years in prison.
Oscar Pistorius verdict: how long might he face in jail?
Oscar Pistorius could spend years in prison even if he is acquitted later this week of deliberately murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Judge Thokozile Masipa is due to hand down her verdict on Thursday. The prosecution claims that the athlete deliberately shot Steenkamp through a toilet door following an argument on Valentine's Day last year, while Pistorius claims he mistook Steenkamp for a dangerous intruder.
His lawyers are arguing two defences: putative self-defence and involuntary action. The defence insists that Pistorius pulled the trigger "reflexively" and without thinking because he was in such as state of fear, suggesting involuntary action. But it has said that if Masipa cannot accept this, she should see his actions as putative self-defence, meaning that Pistorius took reasonable means to defend himself against a genuinely held fear of attack. The prosecution has said that the two defences are "so mutually exclusive that they are mutually destructive".
So what are the charges against Pistorius and how many years might the athlete face in jail?
Pistorious currently faces a possible mandatory life sentence for premeditated murder – usually 25 years unless there are extraordinary circumstances. However, the legal definition of "premeditated" is a grey area. Eric Macramalla, a legal analyst at TSN, says it is usually reserved for more "robust planning" and generally does not include "an intent that materialised right before a crime was committed". He points to a case in South Africa, State v Raath, in which a father forced his son to remove a firearm from a safe to kill the son's mother. The court ruled that this was not sufficient to constitute premeditated murder.
If Judge Masipa does not believe Pistorius planned to kill Steenkamp, she could still convict him for the lesser charge of murder, says Macramalla. This would mean Pistorius intended to kill Steenkamp, with no planning element needed, and would result in a compulsory sentence of 15 years.
Even if Pistorius is acquitted for murder, he could still face a conviction of culpable homicide, meaning he "negligently" killed Steenkamp, explains Macramalla. Sentencing is discretionary, varying from fines to prison time of up to 15 years. Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, legal analyst for the Washington Times, says the judge would need to assign a degree of negligence. "The higher the negligence, the longer the prison term," he says.
Discharging firearms in public
Pistorius is also charged with two counts of discharging a firearm in public. He allegedly fired a gun at a restaurant on 11 January 2013 and again through a car sunroof on 30 November 2012. He could face five years in prison on each count.
Illegal possession of ammunition
Pistorius has admitted being in possession of ammunition for a firearm for which he does not have a licence. The prescribed sentence on this count is 15 years in prison.
Oscar Pistorius: what we learnt from the closing arguments
Oscar Pistorius will discover his fate on 11 September following a long, dramatic case that has dominated headlines since his arrest on Valentine's Day last year. The prosecution and defence wrapped up their final arguments last week, giving Judge Thokozile Masipa five weeks to make her judgment. If found guilty of deliberately killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, Pistorius could face 25 years in prison.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel used metaphor on top of metaphor to paint Pistorius as a "deceitful witness". The athlete "dropped the baton of truth" and told a "snowball of lies", Nel told the court, while defence lawyer Barry Roux repeatedly directed Masipa to put herself into the shoes of Pistorius. With knowledge of the judge's tough stance on domestic abusers, Roux even attempted at one point to compare Pistorius's situation to that of an abused woman.
Here are five things we learned from the closing speeches:
Pistorius has two defences
During the trial Pistorius appeared to change his defence from "putative self-defence", taking reasonable means to defend himself against a genuinely held fear of attack, to "involuntary action", where his mind does not control his behaviour. In his closing speech, Roux confirmed that he was arguing both defences. Pistorius pulled the trigger "reflexively", without thinking, says Roux. But if Masipa cannot accept that, she should see it as putative self-defence, he said. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel balked at the idea of using both defences. They are "so mutually exclusive that they are mutually destructive", he said.
Pistorius admits guilt on one firearms charge
As well as the murder charge, Pistorius faces three other firearms charges. He denies firing a gun out of the sunroof of a car, accusing the other witnesses of inconsistent testimonies with motives to lie. He also denies illegally possessing ammunition. But on Friday, Roux conceded that the court should find Pistorius guilty of negligently discharging a firearm in the Johannesburg restaurant Tashas. In the Daily Telegraph, Professor James Grant, a criminal law specialist, said the introduction of these three charges was a "cleverly constructed trap that Pistorius fell into by pleading not guilty". It has allowed the state to introduce bad character evidence that would normally be inadmissible, he said.
Police did touch objects at the crime scene
During his closing speech, Roux introduced a photograph that had previously not been shown in court. It showed a police officer – who had specifically told the court he had not touched anything at the crime scene – touching a plug in Pistorius's bedroom. Roux also accused investigator Hilton Botha of telling "blatant lies" to incriminate his client and questioned why he was not called as a state witness. Roux told the court there was "no respect" for the crime scene by investigators, making it difficult for Judge Masipa to convict Pistorius purely based on the evidence provided by police.
Several witnesses 'unreliable'
Both lawyers attacked the reliability of certain witnesses. Nel picked apart Pistorius's testimony and accused other defence witnesses of showing bias. Roux demonstrated that one of Pistorius's neighbours, state witness Dr Johan Stipp, gave an incorrect account. Both lawyers praised the testimony of pathologist Professor Gert Saayman, but they disagreed on how it should be interpreted. After the couple's WhatsApp messages were used as evidence by both sides, the judge questioned whether she should bother taking them into account at all. As the BBC's Andrew Harding suggests, the disputed claims of experts and neighbours have "cancelled each other out", leaving the judicial spotlight firmly on Pistorius's state of mind as he pulled the trigger.
Did Pistorius act reasonably?
Ultimately, Masipa will have to decide what Pistorius was thinking and whether he acted in a "reasonable" way on the night of the shooting. "Even in the event of the court accepting the accused's version, he cannot escape a verdict of murder," said Nel. "If you fire four shots into a small cubicle with Black Talon ammunition you see the possibility that you will kill somebody." But the defence insists that Pistorius acted reasonably, especially for a man who was vulnerable without his legs, fearful of violent crime and with a propensity to choose fight over flight because of his inability to run away. "If your finding is that his actions were reasonable, you must acquit him," said Roux.
Oscar Pistorius trial: police had 'no respect' for crime scene
The defence lawyer for Oscar Pistorius has criticised the way police handled the crime scene where Reeva Steenkamp was killed. During his closing arguments, Barry Roux told the court that there was "no respect" for the crime scene by investigators. Yesterday, the prosecution finished its closing arguments, accusing Pistorius of creating a "snowball of lies" in a bid to escape a murder conviction. Roux is due to finish his speech today. Judge Thokozile Masipa is then expected to adjourn the case for up to a month before delivering her final verdict. Pistorius faces up to 25 years in prison if he is found guilty of deliberately murdering his girlfriend Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year. Here is what we have heard so far today:
2.15pm: Roux sums up his case, telling Judge Masipa: "If your finding is that [Pistorius's] actions were reasonable, you must acquit him." He says that if an intention to kill cannot be proved, a murder charge is impossible. Following a short break, prosecutor Gerrie Nel is given a chance to address a small number of legal issues. He maintains that Pistorius's two defences are "so mutually exclusive that they are mutually destructive". Judge Masipa thanks both teams and announces that she will give her verdict on 11 September.
1.30pm: Roux tackles the state's so-called "baker's dozen" of "significant incongruities" in Pistorius's case. One by one, Roux dismisses them as incorrect or inadmissible. For example, the prosecution accused Pistorius of having a poor memory. "He has severe depression. You cannot criticise him for that," says Roux. The defence lawyer peers over his glasses at the judge. "If that is a baker's dozen, then I don't want to eat those cookies," he says. Pistorius told the first people on the scene that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder and his bail affidavit was written just days after the shooting. Why would he be so desperate to save her if he thought she would turn around and accuse him of deliberately shooting her, asks Roux. It is consistent with a "huge, unfortunate mistake", he says.
1.00pm: Roux casts doubt on the independence of two state witnesses, Michelle Burger and her husband Charl Johnson. Their statements were so similar that you need a magnifying glass to tell the difference, says Roux.
The defence lawyer also refers to evidence that suggests Pistorius and Steenkamp were happy together. He points to the loving WhatsApp messages in the week leading up to Steenkamp's death and the Valentine's Day card she had bought for Pistorius, in which she wrote: "Today is a good day to tell you that I love you." Roux also quotes from Professor Jonathan Scholtz's report, written after Pistorius's 30-day mental health evaluation, which found that the couple had a normal, loving relationship, with no evidence of violence or aggression. Roux says there was no motive for Pistorius to deliberately kill his girlfriend.
Noon: Steenkamp's mother June leaves the courtroom as Roux turns to the post-mortem. Pathologist Professor Gert Saayman told the court that the food found in Steenkamp's stomach suggested she had eaten around two hours before her death, which contradicts Pistorius's claim that they were both asleep at that time. But Roux says it is important to remember that Saayman said this was only a "probable" timeframe and could vary by an hour or two in either direction. Roux says there was a period of inactivity on Pistorius's iPad between 7.00pm and 8.00pm when he said they were having dinner. Would an athlete and a model really wait until 1.00am or wake up in the night to eat dinner as the state suggests, says Roux. He admits that Steenkamp might have gone downstairs for a snack unbeknown to the accused, but says it is a "probability, not beyond reasonable doubt" that she ate after 11.00pm.
11.30am: Roux turns to the issue of whether neighbours heard a man or a woman screaming on the night of the shooting. Several witnesses said they heard a woman, but the closest neighbours Michael and Eontle Nhlengethwa said the same screams came from a man. Roux restates the defence's case that the first noises heard by neighbours were gunshots, followed by the cricket bat hitting the door. Therefore, it could not have been Steenkamp screaming after the gunshots, says Roux, because she had been fatally wounded. He also recalls the evidence by acoustic expert Ivan Lin who said it was "unlikely" that a scream from Pistorius's toilet could be heard "audibly and intelligibly" from 170m away. This casts doubt on the testimony of one neighbour, Michelle Burger, who insisted that she heard a woman screaming for help. Lin suggested it would not be possible for her to have heard Steenkamp, who was in the toilet cubicle, or distinguish between a male and female from that far away.
10.50am: Roux is picking apart the testimony given by state witness Dr Johan Stipp, one of Pistorius's neighbours and one of the first people on the scene to administer first aid. His evidence regarding the chronology of events contradicts the other witnesses and objective facts, including phone records, says Roux. For example, Dr Stipp claimed he called security at 3.27am, but Roux says he was already at Pistorius's house at this time. "You cannot rely on him. You have to put a big question mark on his evidence," Roux tells the court.
10.10am: Roux begins giving a detailed timeline of what happened on the night of the shooting. He says the first shots were heard at around 3.12am. There was screaming between the first and second shots. Neighbours heard a cry of "help, help, help" around two minutes later and then at 3.17 there was a second set of noises, which Roux says was the sound of Pistorius using a cricket bat to bash down the toilet door. Security went past Pistorius's house at 2.20am and heard no arguing. Roux said this was "fatal for the state", which claims the couple were awake and arguing hours before Steenkamp was shot.
10.00am: Roux addresses Pistorius's other charges: two counts of discharging firearms in public and one count of illegal possession of ammunition. He concedes the court should find Pistorius guilty of negligently discharging a firearm in the Johannesburg restaurant Tashas. Pistorius also allegedly fired a gun through a car sunroof, while with his then girlfriend Samantha Taylor and friend Darren Fresco on 30 November 2012. Roux suggests that both witnesses are unreliable, with Taylor mistakenly believing that Pistorius had cheated on her and Fresco seeking indemnity because he was alleged to be an accomplice. The witnesses failed to agree on the time, place and motivation for the incident, he says. On the final charge, Roux says Pistorius was simply looking after his father's ammunition and did not even have a gun that could use the bullets. The defence lawyer adds that any convictions on these counts cannot be used to influence the verdict for Steenkamp's killing.
9.20am: Roux finally elaborates on Pistorius's legal defence. He denies that putative self-defence and involuntary action are mutually exclusive. The defence team is not denying that Pistorius armed himself, went towards the toilet and foresaw that it might be necessary to fire the shot, says Roux. The pull of the trigger, however, was "reflexive" – a reaction to a noise in the toilet, which Pistorius perceived to be an intruder coming out to attack him. Pistorius has an exaggerated fight response because of the "slow-burning" effect of his disability and his daily experience of not being able to run away from danger without his prosthetic legs, says Roux. If the judge believes Pistorius's reaction was purely reflexive, then the defence is involuntary action. If she believes that some form of thought process caused him to fire the shot, then it is putative self-defence, says Roux.
9.00am: Roux tells the court that there was "no respect" for the crime scene by investigators. He presents a photograph of one police officer touching a plug by the athlete's bed. The same officer told the court he had not touched anything in the room, says Roux. Pistorius faced intense questioning about the position of the plugs and two fans in his bedroom during cross-examination. The prosecution claimed as fact that an extension cord could not reach to where Pistorius claimed he had placed the fan, suggesting his version was a "lie". But Roux presents another photograph, possessed by the state but not shown in court, showing that the extension cord was longer than claimed. Roux says the cross-examination was therefore "extremely unfair".
Oscar Pistorius described as 'deceitful witness'
The final stages of the Oscar Pistorius trial are taking place today, with both the prosecution and defence teams giving their closing arguments in court. Judge Thokozile Masipa is then expected to adjourn the case for up to a month before delivering her final verdict. Pistorius faces up to 25 years in prison if he is found guilty of deliberately murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year. Here is what we have heard so far today:
2.30pm: Defence lawyer Barry Roux begins his closing speech with a series of corrections to the prosecution's case. The defence is not claiming that the police "conspired" to tamper with the crime scene, says Roux, but it does have evidence to suggest that officers had touched or moved some objects. The prosecution cannot therefore accuse the defendant of lying based on the disturbance of the crime scene by police, he says. Roux also believes that the state should have called other investigating officers, such as Hilton Botha, as witnesses. Botha lied to incriminate the accused and was at the scene, says Roux, but he was not called to testify.
The defence lawyer makes several other technical corrections, but one of his main arguments is that the state has offered contradictory accounts of what happened on the night of the shooting. Prosecutors say Steenkamp and Pistorius might have been eating and arguing downstairs, but this contradicts their earlier claim that Steenkamp had left her jeans and the duvet on the bedroom floor and rushed to the bathroom as the couple fought in the bedroom. The state claims Steenkamp did not know she was about to be shot and was talking to Pistorius through the locked toilet door, but Roux says this does not fit with the claims of state witnesses who heard "blood-curdling screams".
Timelines of the shooting look set to take centre stage tomorrow, with Roux accusing the prosecution of "avoiding objective material facts".
2.00pm: Prosecutor Gerrie Nel tells the court why Pistorius should not escape a murder conviction. Even if the athlete believed Steenkamp was an intruder, he fired four shots into a small cubicle with the intention to kill a human being, says Nel. "Error in objective does not exclude intention." The prosecutor says there was "no reasonable event" that would have caused Pistorius to believe that an attack was imminent. It might have been different if the door had opened, but it did not, says Nel. Pistorius holds his head in his hands as Nel argues that the grouping of the shots suggests "pre-planning". He lists again the process Pistorius went through before shooting – finding his gun, un-holstering the firearm, walking five metres, disengaging the safety mechanism and maintaining a good grouping while firing. Disabled or not, Pistorius was armed and pointing his weapon to a door, behind which was an "unarmed, vulnerable woman", says Nel.
1.30pm: The WhatsApp messages between Steenkamp and Pistorius are discussed in court once again. Nel acknowledges that 90 per cent of the messages are loving but he says it is the other "ten per cent that count". He reads out a passage from Steenkamp in which she tells Pistorius "I am scared of you sometimes" and he says it is significant that unhappy messages were sent just weeks before the shooting. Judge Masipa makes one of her few interruptions of the day, asking Nel if the court can really rely on the WhatsApp messages. "Aren't relationships dynamic?" she says. "If you're unhappy today, it doesn't mean you won't be happy the next day." Nel insists that the messages show the couple were not without their problems and notes that "this relationship ended in death". He adds that the defence's version is that they were a loving couple "who spent a quiet evening together on the eve of Valentine's Day without even a suggestion of intimacy".
1.00pm: Nel turns to Pistorius's claim that he had fired the four shots in quick succession. The fact that he can recall this suggests he fired them consciously, says Nel. The prosecutor continues to argue that the state witnesses are credible. He notes that not every error made by the witnesses affects their credibility. For example, one witness thought he had heard more than four shots but the fact that he stuck to what he believed he heard shows he had not tailored his evidence to fit anyone else's account. Evidence from Steenkamp's post-mortem suggests that she might have eaten around two hours before she died. Nel says it cannot be a "mere coincidence" that a neighbour heard arguing at around the same time Steenkamp might have eaten.
Noon: Nel cites previous cases in which defendants have tried to use the "involuntary action" defence. He says it is not possible to consciously arm yourself, remove the gun's safety catch, take position and aim the weapon and then argue that you are momentarily not in control of your senses when you pull the trigger. Nel also denies claims that the state witnesses were not credible. He says that the neighbours who heard screams coming from Pistorius's house were independent and had not met the accused or deceased, yet their level of corroboration was "exceptional".
11.30am: Nel questions the probability of Pistorius's version of events. To even consider his defence, the court would have to accept that he and Steenkamp were both awake and had a conversation but then Steenkamp did not say another word as she went off to the bathroom, even when Pistorius was outside the toilet door shouting her name, says Nel. The prosecutor also questioned why Steenkamp would open a window in the bathroom before she went into the toilet cubicle and why she took her phone with her. Pistorius claimed he heard a magazine rack in the toilet being moved, which he perceived at the time to be the intruder coming out of the toilet. Nel says it is "improbable" that the magazine rack even moved.
11.00am: As the court resumes after a tea break, Judge Masipa tells the prosecution it is moving too slowly and that she is not available next week if they overrun. Nel assures her that he and the defence will get through the arguments before the end of tomorrow "by hook or by crook". Nel continues with his closing speech, telling the court that Pistorius told a "snowball of lies" that he was then forced to keep building on. He picks apart Pistorius's testimony in a bid to show that it cannot be "reasonably, possibly true". For example, the athlete claimed he had covered a blue LED light on his amplifier on the night of the shooting because it was bothering him, but also insisted it was too weak to illuminate anything in the room. Nel says this was an example of Pistorius "tailoring" his evidence to explain why he had his back to the bed at all times and did not, therefore, see that Steenkamp had left the bedroom.
10.00am: Nel says Pistorius was an "appalling witness", who was vague and argumentative, with his "mendacity" best shown in the way he remembered some events in huge detail and others with none at all. Nel says the most "devastating" aspect of the defence's case was its "inability and failure" to contest the condition of the crime scene. A photograph of the athlete's bedroom just after Steenkamp's death shows that a large fan is in the way of a balcony door that Pistorius claims he ran through to seek help. It also shows the duvet on the floor, which would have made it impossible for Pistorius to have mistakenly believed Steenkamp was in bed when he went to the bathroom with his gun. Yet, Nel says that the defence did not put it to the first police officer on the scene or the police photographer that they had moved the objects around.
9.30am: Prosecutor Gerrie Nel reads out quotes from Pistorius's testimony in which the athlete describes the exact moments he fired his gun. Pistorius told the court that he shot Reeva by "accident" and had no time to think before he fired. This suggests a defence of "involuntary action". But Nel says that on the night of the shooting, Pistorius did not tell any witnesses who came to his house that the shooting had been an accident. The Paralympian told them he shot Reeva and that he thought she was an intruder. Nel also picks out quotes from Pistorius in which the athlete explains his thought process just before he fired. Pistorius said he heard "movement" inside the toilet and that he "thought" an intruder might have broken in. The prosecutor suggests that Pistorius could not, therefore, have shot without thinking and that his own testimony points more towards putative self-defence.
9am: Nel begins his closing speech, describing Pistorius as a "deceitful witness" and saying that in essence his evidence was "absolutely devoid of any truth". He says the athlete's two defences – that he was not in control of his behaviour and that he acted in self-defence – are irreconcilable and the objective facts about the night of the shooting are "devastating" to his case. Nel accuses Pistorius of having "anxiety on call". He adds that the defence had told the court that it would call witnesses to prove that Pistorius screams "like a woman". But no such witnesses were called, he said.
What else can we expect as Nel and defence lawyer Barry Roux go head to head once more?
Prosecution: Gerrie Nel's closing arguments
Nicknamed 'The Pit Bull', Nel has subjected Pistorius and the defence witnesses to a series of gruelling cross-examinations. He is likely to use his closing argument to paint Pistorius as a gun-loving, egotistical, jealous boyfriend who would blame anyone but himself for his mistakes.
Nel will summarise the prosecution's case that Pistorius had a heated argument with Steenkamp before deliberately shooting her after she locked herself in the toilet. This contrasts with the athlete's claim that he mistook his girlfriend for a dangerous intruder. The prosecutor has previously told Pistorius that his version is "not only untruthful but it's so improbable that it cannot be reasonably, possibly true". The court can expect to be reminded of any inconsistencies in the defence's case, particularly in the athlete's own teary testimony.
To back up his case, Nel is likely to draw on the testimonies of state witnesses, including five neighbours who heard a woman screaming on the night Steenkamp was shot, a ballistics expert who claims she would have had time to scream before she died and a handful of WhatsApp messages that suggested she was "scared" of Pistorius.
Defence: Barry Roux's closing arguments
In contrast with Nel's case, Roux has sought to show Pistorius's life as marked by tragedy and a "profound fear of crime", from his mother's death and his double leg amputation to being followed home, burgled and shot at on a motorway.
Roux too will try to pick holes in the opposition's case. The seasoned courtroom performer has been compared to OJ Simpson's lawyer Johnnie Cochran, who famously secured the footballer a not guilty verdict. In the same way that Cochran challenged every piece of police department evidence to set his client free, Roux too has highlighted the police's shoddy handling of the case. One officer picked up Pistorius's weapon without gloves, another walked over the door Steenkamp was shot through and one of the athlete's watches went missing from the crime scene.
Over the course of the trial, Roux has often been seen leafing through his notes and casually sucking on his glasses as if uncertain of what to ask next – before going straight for the witness's jugular. Investigating officer Hilton Botha was left a sweating mess after a bail hearing and resigned shortly afterwards. Roux has worked hard to prove there is room for doubt in the testimonies of the state's witnesses – and it is "reasonable doubt" that Judge Masipa needs in order to deliver a not guilty verdict for premeditated murder.
- 1Oscar Pistorius out of legal options as request to appeal rejected
- 2Oscar Pistorius out of legal options as request to appeal rejected
- 3Oscar Pistorius out of legal options as request to appeal rejected
- 4Oscar Pistorius out of legal options as request to appeal rejected
- 5Oscar Pistorius out of legal options as request to appeal rejected
- 6Oscar Pistorius out of legal options as request to appeal rejected
- 7Oscar Pistorius out of legal options as request to appeal rejected
- 8Oscar Pistorius out of legal options as request to appeal rejected
- 9Oscar Pistorius out of legal options as request to appeal rejected
- 10Oscar Pistorius out of legal options as request to appeal rejected - currently reading
- 11Oscar Pistorius out of legal options as request to appeal rejected
- 12Oscar Pistorius out of legal options as request to appeal rejected