Oscar Pistorius trial: 5 lessons in 5 days of testimony
Pistorius, 27, is charged with premeditated murder in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
Accused murderer Oscar Pistorius ended five days of testimony at his trial in Pretoria, South Africa, Tuesday under the relentless interrogation and mocking of prosecutor Gerrie Nel. Here are five things we learned.
- On mobile? Watch the court proceedings LIVE here
- 5 key questions about the Pistorius trial as defence begins
1. Pistorius highly emotional
Pistorius, 27, remains highly emotional and distraught, either at the death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, as he is trying to convey, or at the seriousness of his situation. He broke down crying, whimpering and wailing at several points in his five days of testimony. He even vomited once.
Judge Thokozile Masipa — who alone holds Pistorius's fate in her hands — seemed thoroughly considerate, adjourning the trial repeatedly to let the accused murderer compose himself. On the first day, in fact, she wrapped up the proceedings soon after lunch, when defence lawyer Barry Roux informed the court that his client was exhausted and hadn't slept the night before.
- INTERACTIVE | The state vs. Pistorius: how the accounts differ
- ANALYSIS | Oscar Pistorius under the microscope
2. 'Pit bull' prosecutor lives up to his rep
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel lives up to his reputation as a "pit bull" in the courtroom. He is mocking and sarcastic about Pistorius's claim that the shooting was a mistake. He calls the story "so improbable that it cannot possibly be true." And he appears to regard Pistorius's emotional responses as merely theatrical. "Mr. Pistorius, you are trying to get emotional again," Nel observes.
He accuses the Olympic sprinter and double-amputee of "tailoring" his testimony carefully to hide the fact that he simply shot Steenkamp, 29, after an argument. Pistorius's version is that he thought an intruder or intruders had come in through the bathroom window and were in the toilet stall.
Just short of sneering at Pistorius, Nel glares at the witness and mocks his responses. "You were scared. You thought that there were intruders in the house. And that's how you approached them: with a bent arm, your elbow next to your side, and your gun facing forward — not extended hand, ready to fire."
3. No stranger to guns
Pistorius is no stranger to guns. Early in the cross-examination, Nel showed the court a video of Pistorius at a shooting range firing a gun at a watermelon and then saying it was "softer than brains." Pistorius then called the powerful .50-caliber handgun a "zombie stopper." Defence lawyer Barry Roux had earlier objected to the gun video being shown, but the judge allowed it.
Referring to the watermelon video, Nel says to Pistorius: "You know the same happened to Reeva's head? It exploded."
Among other charges that Pistorius faces are discharging a Glock handgun in a restaurant — a charge he denies, saying the gun went off on its own — and firing a gun through the roof of his car after a policeman stopped him for speeding and admonished him about a gun lying on the car seat. He says witnesses fabricated the car incident and denies the shooting completely.
4. Gruesome pictures
The photographic evidence is gruesome. It includes a toilet bowl containing blood where Reeva Steenkamp's body was found, with more blood smeared all around it. Pistorius testified that when he batted down the toilet stall door, he found the model and law graduate "seated on her right buttocks with her right arm on top of the toilet bowl; her head was on her shoulder."
He carried her body downstairs, where the manager of the complex where he lived told him to lay the body down. There are also published police photographs of blood pooled at the bottom of the stairs.
5. Runs on stumps
Pistorius is able not just to move but to run on the stumps of his legs. After the shooting, he testified, "I ran down the passage. I ran past the bed." When he realized Steenkamp wasn't there, he says, he put on his prosthetic legs and returned to the bathroom. There, he found it difficult to move her body out of the stall.
Still, he would hardly be speedy on his stumps. Earlier in the trial, Pistorius took off his legs and changed into T-shirt and shorts, the kind of clothing he was wearing the night of the shooting, to show the court why he might be fearful of an intruder.