Saturday, April 12, 2014

'Reeva Was Standing Behind the Toilet Door Talking to You When You Shot Her'- Prosecutors say

Oscar Pistorius' three-day cross-examination reached a dramatic climax today as the world-famous athlete was accused of deliberately shooting his girlfriend through a toilet door as the couple talked and argued in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year.

    "You knew that Reeva went behind the door and you shot at her,' Mr Nel said. 'You shot at her knowing she was behind the door.'
Photo Oscar Pistorius Cries and Gives an Apology Plus Top 5 Moments in Court
Pistorius denied the charge as prosecutor Gerrie Nel pushed the Paralympic champion on his version of the exact events in the seconds before he killed Reeva Steenkamp by firing four times through the stall door in his bathroom with his 9mm pistol on February 14, 2013.

 Mr Nel challenged the double-amputee sprinter repeatedly as to why Miss Steenkamp failed to scream when she was shot four times.Continue...

Mr Nel, one of South Africa's top attorneys, said it was beyond belief that 29-year-old law graduate and model Miss Steenkamp would have remained silent in the tiny cubicle with an armed Pistorius shouting and screaming in the adjoining bathroom.

Mr Nel later followed up with his central accusation - that the couple had an argument and Steenkamp fled to the toilet pursued by Pistorius, who then shot her through the closed wooden door.

Pistorius denied the accusation, before the court adjourned until Monday morning.

Pistorius, who claims he shot Miss Steenkamp by mistake thinking she was a nighttime intruder behind a toilet door in his bathroom, faces life in prison if convicted of murder.

Pistorius says he shouted at what he thought was an intruder in his house and also at Miss Steenkamp to call the police.
Mr Nel said that if that were the case, she would not have stood up against the door. She would have retreated away from it. And she would have responded to Pistorius, the chief prosecutor said.
'I don't think anybody could say where she would have stood,' Pistorius replied.

Mr Nel led the double-amputee runner through his own account of what happened in the moments before he shot Miss Steenkamp.
Pistorius said he heard a noise in the bathroom and moved down a hallway on his stumps towards the bathroom while screaming to his girlfriend - who he claims he had believed was in the bedroom - to get down and call the police.

He said he then heard what sounded like the toilet door slamming, then kept quiet as he reached the bathroom entrance, then heard a noise in the toilet that he perceived to be the sound of wood on wood, which he said made him think someone was opening the toilet door - which he said fit badly in the frame - to attack him.

And then, Pistorius said, he opened fire.

At each stage, Mr Nel argued that the account was improbable, questioning why Pistorius did not establish where Miss Steenkamp was and make sure she was okay, and why he would approach the alleged danger zone if he felt vulnerable on his stumps.

Mr Nel said: 'If you spoke to Reeva, the two of you could have taken lots of other steps.'
Pistorius said he thought the perceived threat could strike at any moment: 'There was no time.'
During the cross-examination, Pistorius said Steenkamp did not scream at any point during the incident.

However, the 27-year-old track star said that he may not have heard her cries because of his ears ringing from the first shot.
Several people living nearby have testified to hearing a woman's terrified screams before and during a volley of shots.
'She's awake. She's in the toilet. You're shouting. You're screaming. You're three metres from her. She would have responded. She would not have been quiet, Mr Pistorius,' Mr Nel said.
'She didn't respond, my Lady,' Pistorius replied, addressing judge Thokozile Masipa.
'Did she scream at all whilst you shot her four times?' Mr Nel continued.
'No, my Lady.'
'Are you sure? Are you sure, Mr Pistorius, that Reeva did not scream after the first shot?' Mr Nel continued. 'Are you, Mr Pistorius?'
After a brief silence, Pistorius said: 'My Lady, I wish she had let me know she was there.'
'After you fired the first shot, did she scream?' Mr Nel asked.
'No, my Lady.'
'Are you sure? Would you have heard her?' Mr Nel asked.
'I don't think I would have heard her.'
'A gunshot went off, my ears were ringing,' Pistorius said.
'How can you exclude the fact she was screaming if you couldn't hear?' Mr Nel asked.
'If I couldn't hear it then I couldn't hear,' Pistorius retorted.
'No, you said, Mr Pistorius, she never screamed. You couldn't hear. You're just saying that,' Mr Nel said.
'That is what I'm saying,' Pistorius replied.
'No, that's not what you're saying. You're saying she didn't scream,' Mr Nel followed up.
'My Lady, the sound of that gunshot in the bathroom, you wouldn't have heard anyone scream. The decibels of the gunshot, I don't believe you would have heard anyone scream. When I had finished firing the gunshots, I was screaming and I couldn't hear my own voice.'

Pistorius' return to the witness box today followed a week of testimony in which the double-amputee runner said he killed Miss Steenkamp by accident after mistaking her for an intruder in his home last year.

Mr Nel challenged the athlete's statements that he was worried about crime before the fatal shooting.
The prosecutor examined the details of the alarm system at Pistorius' house, questioning why the athlete would believe an intruder had broken into his home when he had extensive security measures, including interior and exterior sensors.

Pistorius said he activated the sensors on the home alarm system before going to sleep on the night he killed Miss Steenkamp, but feared that building contractors doing work on his house may have moved some of the security beacons.

The prosecutor said Pistorius had not mentioned immediately after the shooting that he had fears that building contractors had removed some of the security beacons, specifically near the bathroom window where he allegedly thought an intruder may have gained access on the night he killed Miss Steenkamp.

Querying why Pistorius had not mentioned those fears earlier, Mr Nel said the athlete was trying to build a story to explain his fears of an intruder and therefore a mistaken shooting.
'This is the biggest example of you tailoring your evidence,' Mr Nel said. Pistorius denied he was fabricating a story.
Pistorius also said he was struggling to give clear testimony because he was tired, prompting the judge to ask him if he was too tired to proceed with a tough cross-examination from the chief prosecutor.
Pistorius was responding to a question from Mr Nel, who pointed to a lack of clarity in the double-amputee runner's testimony about whether he turned off the alarm inside his home on the night of February 14, 2013.
Pistorius said he 'must have' turned off the alarm, which Mr Nel described as a vague response.
The prosecutor then asked Pistorius, who acknowledged making a mistake in his testimony, if he needed time before continuing with his testimony.

'I don't need time,' the Olympic athlete said. 'I am tired. It's not going to change.'
Mr Nel responded: 'You're trying to cover up for lies and I'm not convinced.'
Judge Thokozile Masipa interjected, asking Pistorius if he was too tired to proceed.
'You can be at a disadvantage when you're in that box,' she said, adding that it wasn't fair to the court if he was not alert during the proceedings.

Pistorius replied that he was able to go on.

Mr Nel also argued that Pistorius was prepared to lie about an incident as far back as five years ago when he claims someone shot at him from another car on a highway to build a backstory that he had a long-held fear of being attacked.

Pistorius said he saw a 'muzzle flash' and heard 'a banging noise' as a black Mercedes drove past him in the incident, which he said was in 2008 or 2009.
Pistorius said he slowed down, turned off the highway and eventually went to a restaurant car park and called someone to come and pick him up.

Mr Nel asked Pistorius who he called and Pistorius replied he couldn't remember.
'You cannot not remember,' Mr Nel said. It was 'such a traumatic incident,' the prosecutor said.
Mr Nel said Pistorius' failing to remember who he called was because 'it never happened.'
'It's the one night that someone almost shot you, am I right?' Mr Nel said. Pistorius said it was.
'If I could remember who I phoned I would gladly give you their name,' Pistorius said.
At one point in the proceedings, Judge Masipa had to warn Mr Nel to 'mind your language' as she reminded him not to call a witness a liar.

The prosecution says Pistorius killed the 29-year-old after an argument on February 14, 2013.

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