It was a very testy morning in the Pretoria High Courts in South Africa when the Oscar Pistorius trial resumed to hear witnesses in the matter of the killing of Reeva Steenkamp. For over 30 days both the South Africa High Courts and the courts of public opinion have been wondering if the psychiatric evaluation of Oscar Pistorius would result in an acquittal for his charges of first degree murder. The answer to Oscar’s fate remains unclear, though the answers in his psychiatric evaluation are not. The Guardian reports on June 30 that the psychiatric report has been submitted to the courts with both the defense and the State agreeing on the findings. The Guardian reports that Oscar Pistorius knew the difference between right and wrong in the moments that he pulled the trigger 4 times killing Reeva Steenkamp. This could be the most damaging evidence against Oscar Pistorius to date. The defense worked quickly to recover from this testimony, poking holes whenever possible. But will Oscar’s defense be able to recover from this information to lead to an acquittal? New information on the purchase of new guns by Oscar shortly after the killing certainly will not help the defense land the acquittal they are hoping for.
The Guardian reports that prosecutor for the State Gerrie Nel read sections of the report early in the onset of trial on the morning of June 30. Gerrie Nel specifically referred to a “Section C” of the report that read:
“At the time of the alleged offenses the accused did not suffer from a mental disorder or mental defect that affected his ability to distinguish between rightful or wrongful nature of his deeds. And, a mental disorder or mental defect did not affect his ability to act in accordance with appreciation of the rightful or wrongful nature of his deeds.”
The entire report has not been completely reviewed by the courts but will be later in the trial. As the report was read by Gerrie Nel, members of the defense gallery, notably Carl and Aimee Pistorius the siblings to the accused, were seen hugging and trying to contain tears. Oscar Pistorius as well looked very shocked and upset by the results revealed in the report. The CBC showed Oscar Pistorius holding his hands over his face and attempting to contain tears.
According to The Telegraph, notable findings in the report conclude that Oscar Pistorius suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, as well as depression, but that those disorders did not impact his state of mind during the shooting. It is likely that Oscar suffers from these disorders as a result of the shooting, and was not suffering from them at the time he killed Reeva Steenkamp.
Other notable moments that occurred during the testimony provided on June 30 include witnesses for the defense that attempted to poke holes in the screaming evidence. An audio engineer and acoustics expert by the name of Ivan Lin appeared in court to discredit the testimony of the witnesses that claimed they heard screams from hundreds of meters away.
Ivan Lin testified that it was “impossible” to determine whether or not it was a man or woman screaming on the night in question. Lin also stated that replicating the precise conditions to prove this would also be impossible. Lin stated that with the bathroom window being closed, the bathroom door being closed, the sound would have had to deteriorate over 80 meters in order to be heard, thus making it impossible to distinguish who was screaming.
Lin’s testimony almost seemed to be picky with details, and it will be up to Judge Masipa to determine how important those details are. Some might say he was nitpicking, working to distinguish the differences between “hearing” and “listening” as he submitted his report to the courts.
“The listeners could have heard a scream from 80m away, irrespective if it was from toilet, bathroom, or balcony. However, at 177m away, if the scream was from the toilet, it is very unlikely the listener could have heard the scream, let alone interpret it. If the listener was on a balcony, the sound would be audible and possibly intelligible. But, if the listener were in a bedroom, the sounds can range from not audible to extremely unlikely to be audible.”
These might be what some professionals refer to as distinctions without a difference. The most important question about this testimony is, even if this testimony discredits the neighbors screaming testimony, does it impact whether or not Oscar Pistorius intended to kill on the night in question?
The court room was tense all throughout the morning, with gallery members for both the defense and the State getting notable uncomfortable during testimony. The testiest testimony occurred when the physician who amputated Oscar Pistorius when he was an infant testified, and things got heated between he and prosecutor Gerrie Nel according to the CBC.
Physician Dr. Versfeld was called to testify on Oscar’s mobility in general, with the defense hoping he would be able to establish some key mobility issues on the night in question. Dr. Versfeld testified that Pistorius would be “severely impaired” in a dangerous event, and would not be able to flee the situation on his stumps alone. This lead to Judge Masipa putting a pause in the live recording of the trial to examine Pistorius on his stumps to review her concerns with this testimony.
According to The Telegraph, things got testy between Gerrie Nel and Dr. Versfeld when the witness attempted to discredit testimony that neighbors had submitted previously over whether or not the light was on or off in the bathroom on Valentine’s Day 2013.
Nel questioned the witness on whether or not it was possible that “everything I have said” regarding the bathroom light was wrong or not. Nel was also questioning the witness on the possibility of Pistorius “firing with both hands before running back to the bedroom, all in the dark without falling over [on his stumps] could have happened”.
Dr. Versfeld found this line of questioning, a “blanket question” and “unacceptable”. He also told the court that, “I try not to be a jack in the box and object all the time, but some of these [Gerrie Nel’s questions] are just wrong.”
Judge Masipa did not like the way things were going and stated, “We’re not going to finish the way we’re carrying on.”
What the defense is trying to do here is discredit the damaging testimony of the neighbors, while the State is working to turn Dr. Versefeld’s rendition of the night in question into information that is either inconsistent with the evidence, or simply untrue. Nel further asserted that Dr. Versfeld is not qualified to make assessments of this nature, and only qualified to made deductions about Oscar’s medical condition, and not his predisposition to danger, or his reaction to a perceived vulnerability to danger.
Judge Masipa still has the task before her to use all of this information to determine if the Oscar Pistorius indictment is correct, that he intended to kill. Oscar’s defense is that he thought it was an intruder in the bathroom on the night in question. As listed in the indictment, the State has asserted that an “error in persona” does not mitigate the intent to kill.
In addition to this evidence, some additional damaging information on Oscar Pistorius has come to light via the South Africa Times. The gun club that Oscar Pistorius has used in the past has been placed under a police investigation and police probe. Information has emerged that shortly after the killing of Reeva Steenkamp Oscar Pistorius purchased several guns, including a semiautomatic rifle, a revolver, and some shotguns from a location called Hot Shots just south of Johannesburg.
That order was cancelled one month after he was arrested for murder. To date, the police are investigating Hot Shots for their alleged “fraudulent issuing of gun licenses” according to the South Africa Times. The matter of gun licenses is a key matter in the Oscar Pistorius trial, and a matter for which he is charged for in addition to premeditated murder in the first degree as listed in the Oscar Pistorius indictment.
The defense has a few more witnesses to call, including a psychiatrist, and some friends that knew both Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp as a couple.
What do you think about the testimony in court today?