Will Oscar Pistorius Be Found Guilty? Here's Why Prosecutor Gerrie Nel Thinks He Should Be
Thursday marked Day 40 of the Oscar Pistorius trial, and the fate of the embattled Olympic runner isn't looking so good. Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel called Oscar Pistorius an "appalling witness" during his closing arguments, outlining ways in which the South African athlete allegedly lied about the events that occurred Feb. 14, 2013. Pistorius faces 25 years to life in prison for the alleged murder, and has also been charged with three separate gun-related violations. He's pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The high-profile murder trial, which began in March, has been plagued by emotional outbursts, psych evaluations and a flip-flopping defense. The once-celebrated runner reportedly endured several mental breakdowns during the course of the trial, and was throwing up in buckets in the courtroom. The prosecution ordered a mental illness evaluation for Pistorius, suspending the trial for 30 days. The psych evaluators found that the Olympian didn't have any mental illness or defect at the time of Steenkamp's alleged murder. However, he has endured psychological distress since the trial began.
Pistorius has also come under fire during the trial for changing his defense — something that may work in favor of the prosecution. At first, Pistorius claimed he shot four bullets through his bathroom door as self-defense, believing an intruder was in there. However, he repeatedly contradicted himself throughout the trial, alleging that he didn't mean to shoot his gun, calling it an "accident."
Now, with closing arguments wrapped up, the fate of Pistorius will be handed down by the end of August. Here's why prosecutor Gerrie Nel thinks Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa should hand down a "guilty" verdict.
The Baton Of Truth
During his closing arguments, Nel played up the fact that Pistorius allegedly fibbed over the course of the trial. Nel homed in on the discrepancies of Pistorius' defense — including his contradicting accounts of the night of Feb. 14, 2013 — in an attempt to prove to the court that Pistorius can't be trusted:
[Pistorius] dropped the baton of truth. ... We have two defenses, and we want the court to pick one.
Nel added that the court should have no trouble "rejecting" Pistorius' version of events, because they are "devoid of any truth."
An Unreliable Witness
When the Pistorius trial first began in March, Nel admitted that the case will have to be decided on circumstantial evidence, since the Olympian was the only witness to the alleged murder. The fact Pistorius was the only witness may have been troubling at the start of the trial, but Nel believes that Pistorius being an "appalling witness" could play a part in the verdict.
We cannot argue that he was the worst witness ever, that honor belongs to someone else. The accused was, however, demonstrably one of the worst witnesses ever encountered. [Pistorius] used well-calculated and rehearsed emotional outbursts to deflect the attention and avoid having to answer questions. ... The accused is more interested in fending for his life than in entrusting the court with a truthful account.
A Case For Premeditation
Taking into account Pistorius' flip-flopping defense and vague details about the night Steenkamp was killed, Nel made a case for premeditated murder. This will be one of the major points in the verdict, as Pistorius can still be tried for manslaughter if not found guilty of premeditated murder.
According to Nel, the fact that Pistorius armed himself in his bedroom and then walked down the hallway to the bathroom is a sign that the killing was premeditated.
He had lots of time for reflection. He made up his mind in the bedroom when he armed himself. That is pre-planning.
Masipa could take a month or more to make her decision.