Former Olympian Oscar Pistorius, who is on trial for murder after fatally shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through a bathroom door last year, was hammered by prosecutors under cross-examination Wednesday. In a move that shocked the courtroom, the prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, presented a photo of Steenkamp after her death, referred to her "exploded" head, and urged him to look at it. Pistorius refused.
Nel — whose nickname in South Africa is the "pit bull" — reminded Pistorius repeatedly that he'd killed Steenkamp. Pistorius, who has pleaded not guilty to murder, acknowledged that he killed his girlfriend, but has said he believed Steenkamp was an intruder. On Wednesday, he told Nel he "made a mistake." Nel replied:
You made a mistake? You killed a person. You shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp. Why don't you take responsibility for that?
He then showed a video of Pistorius shooting a gun at a watermelon. In the video, Pistorius comments that the exploding watermelon is "a lot softer than brain, but fuck, it's like a zombie stopper." Then, to gasps from the courtroom, Nel flashed the photo of the deceased Steenkamp's head, suggesting she suffered damage similar to what happened to the watermelon. Pistorius began crying.
I remember ... my fingers touched her head. I do not have to look at a picture.
Pistorius, who has been sobbing, plugging his ears, and vomiting during his trial, has said he's had trouble sleeping since Steenkamp's death. On Wednesday, he mounted his defense directly to the prosecutor, saying he "believed an intruder was coming to attack" and fired the four shots that killed his girlfriend "before thinking."
Neighbors have testified that they heard shouting before and during the shooting; Pistorius says he only began shouting after he realized what he'd done.
After being pushed by Nel to explain his emotional and difficult responses to questioning, Pistorius replied:
My life is on the line. Of course I'm thinking about the consequences of my answers.
Nel responded back bitingly:
And Reeva doesn't have life any more.