Oscar Pistorius

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A Weekend Without Counsel for Oscar

It’s most likely been a very long and lonely weekend for Oscar Pistorius without his defence team to reassure him and coach him. Legal process forbids him from consulting with his legal counsel about the trial for the duration of his swearing in for cross-examination. Likewise, it’s out of bounds even with his family. I […]

14-04-14 08:27

It’s most likely been a very long and lonely weekend for Oscar Pistorius without his defence team to reassure him and coach him. Legal process forbids him from consulting with his legal counsel about the trial for the duration of his swearing in for cross-examination. Likewise, it’s out of bounds even with his family.

Oscar PistoriusI wonder how he’s spent the time. He would have been with his family, maybe some friends, and possibly Leah Skye Malan, the 19-year-old paramedic student who’s reportedly his new girlfriend. He wouldn’t have been left alone.

I imagine the TV would’ve been on all weekend, sometimes for information and at others just in the background. He would surely have listened attentively to expert opinions on Channel 199 and other broadcasters, and maybe he’s paged through the Saturday and Sunday newspapers.

The week would have taken its toll on Oscar given it was the most crucial to date with him taking the stand and having to account for his version of events on the night he killed Reeva Steenkamp, his girlfriend of three months.

Does he wonder about his support from a public at odds with each other over his innocence or guilt? Does he dwell on Nel’s accusations that he’s self-absorbed and economical with the truth? Or has he heard psycho-babblers call him narcissistic as they exchange buzzwords about his flawed character?

Ultimately this is all surmise. The law is the law and will take its course to determine this young man’s fate despite many of his once-adoring public turning into Oscar-haters as they metaphorically applaud Advocate Gerrie Nel, the prosecutor for the state.

At the start of the trial when there was much baying for the blood of Defence Advocate Barry Roux, there was impatience with Nel’s seemingly placid demeanour. Of course, he was just waiting his turn.

Nicknamed “the pitbull”, Nel’s approach is head-on rather than sarcastic a la Roux, though they both have an inclination to use repetition when going for the jugular.

Nel is said to have landed this job in the absence of anyone else suitable being available and until now was best known as the Gauteng head of the (defunct) Scorpions and for successfully prosecuting ex-police chief Jackie Selebi. However, it is this trial of Oscar Pistorius that has raised his profile and made him and his counterpart Barry Roux reluctant international celebrities.

Short and bolshy, Nel also happens to be a children’s wrestling coach so perhaps that gives him an edge in terms of fighting strategy and style.

He well and truly grilled Oscar over what was going through Reeva’s head before she was shot dead, which Nel described as “the crux of the case”.

Nel taunted Oscar with words designed to rile him – like improbable, untruthful and tailored evidence – but his accusation “you’re lying’” invited reaction from both Roux and the judge and Judge Thokozile Masipa was quick to admonish Nel. “You don’t call a witness a liar while he is in the witness box,” she said.

He apologised but Oscar took the bait. He argued, tripped himself up, contradicted evidence and blamed his legal counsel; and also the SAPS, whom he said compromised the crime scene by moving crucial items and by not wearing forensic gloves.

He denied witness testimony by two former close friends, Samantha Taylor and Darren Fresco, that he had fired his gun through the sunroof of the car in which they were returning to Johannesburg from an outing.

Nel pounced on him too as to why he never reported to the police an incident when someone allegedly took a shot at him on the motorway – Oscar replied that he “didn’t trust” the police.

And he emphatically denied that in 2012 he went “looking for trouble” with the result that he was assaulted and required medical attention.

This last incident was the subject of the Sunday Times’ lead story, which screamed: Oscar is a liar. The newspaper ‘revealed’ that the “athlete denied being assaulted to save his image as Mr Clean, and also lied about his love affair with Reeva.”

The paper says that reporter Gabi Mbele was leaked the story by someone in the know and that she spoke to both Oscar and Reeva, who denied the claim while begging her not to write about it as it was bad for Oscar’s image.

The paper piously insists they didn’t publish the story because “no-one confirmed it”. Pardon me, but who’s calling the kettle black? That sounds like a whopper! As if the broadsheet would give up and kill a good story – if you’ll forgive the expression – in deference to the protagonist’s pleas and denials.

As for the denial of a serious relationship with Reeva, that’s hardly a crime when trying to establish a meaningful connection away from the glare of publicity.

Which brings me to the probability or otherwise of Oscar’s version of what really happened that fateful night when he fired four shots through the toilet door, killing Reeva almost instantly.

Can it be irrefutably proven that Oscar lied about the intruder and all other events that led to his shooting dead the woman he now infers was the love of his life?

I haven’t heard any legal experts saying Oscar is doing himself any favours but, if I may jump the gun, would this be enough to find Oscar guilty as charged?

Or will the evidence point at trial’s end to a possible, albeit improbable, tragic tale of mistaken identity? Will the judge and her assessors find that premeditated murder is without substance and change the charge to the lesser one of manslaughter?

And even if Oscar is found guilty of manslaughter and on the lesser ammunition and gun charges, is it a certainty that he would serve time? Some observers say nothing is certain except the law will take its course based on the evidence presented.

Only time will tell which way this case will go but one thing I can predict with certainty is that as the week begins, Gerrie Nel will show his bite’s as bad as his bark as he continues to goad and badger Oscar into further denials and contradictions.

If I had the chance to advise Oscar, and of course there’s no reason to believe he’s reading me or would take any notice, I’d tell him that as a layperson I humbly suggest he speaks only when spoken to and in as few words as required.

There’s a good reason why American attorneys advise their clients to “take the Fifth” to avoid incriminating themselves.

*The Fifth Amendment states that nobody may be forced to testify as a witness against himself or herself.