Oscar Pistorius verdict hangs on 'possible improbabilities'

Tue Aug 12, 2014 7:00am EDT
 
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By Ed Cropley

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Eighteen months ago when he granted Oscar Pistorius bail after the killing of his girlfriend, South African magistrate Desmond Nair noted a number of "improbabilities" in the Olympic and Paralympic star's account of the shooting.

After 41 days of testimony and drama in the Pretoria High Court, Pistorius's freedom hangs on whether the prosecution has made its case well enough to convince judge Thokozile Masipa that such improbabilities cannot be "reasonably possibly true".

Pistorius, a double-amputee who made it to the semi-final of the 400 meters at the London 2012 Olympics, says he fired through the door into the toilet cubicle in the mistaken belief he was defending himself from a burglar.

Why, Nair had asked, did Pistorius not find out who was in the toilet before firing four 9mm hollow-point rounds?

And why did Reeva Steenkamp not let him know she was there?

With Pistorius the only direct witness, much of the state's case rests on forensics, including evidence that the sequence of Steenkamp's injuries would have allowed her to cry out, and on the testimony of neighbors who say they heard the terrified screams of a woman immediately before and during a volley of shots.

The defense says the screams came from Pistorius, at an unusually high pitch for a man because of the distress of discovering that he had unwittingly shot Steenkamp.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel, known as "The Pitbull", painted a picture of Pistorius, 27, as a gun-obsessed hot-head who killed Steenkamp, 29, in a fit of rage after a row in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year.   Continued...

 
June Steenkamp (seated 3rd L), with her husband Barry (seated 4th L), parents of Reeva Steenkamp, look on as South African Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius (L) enters a court in Pretoria August 8, 2014.  REUTERS/Themba Hadebe/Pool