After an unexpected break between the prosecution and defence cases when a court assessor fell ill, the trial of Oscar Pistorius, accused of murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year, is expected to resume on Monday.
In the meantime, Judge Masipa has been busy convicting a man of murder, attempted murder and arson after he doused his wife’s lover’s house with petrol. She sentenced him to 30 years, although he will reportedly only have to serve 15 years imprisonment. This will be a stark and timely reminder that she has a ruthless and no-nonsense reputation.
Although Pistorius was just minutes away from testifying when the judge delayed the case last Friday, it seems like the world will have to wait on tenterhooks to hear from him a little longer.
Brian Webber, a member of Pistorius’s legal team, told The Associated Press, “It is likely that we will call Professor Jan Botha on Monday as he has personal difficulties and I believe that the state has agreed to him giving evidence first.”
Botha is a pathologist who is expected to offer his forensics expertise to dispel some of the prosecution’s claims directly surrounding the shooting.
What do the defence need to prove?
There are several things that Barry Roux and his team are expected to do in order to counter the damning prosecution evidence.
Firstly, the prosecution used several witnesses who heard female screams as the shots sounded, which begs the question of why several shots were fired. It is Pistorius’s line that he began screaming once he realised what he had done — and one of Roux’s most famous repetitions is how his client screams like a girl — but the defence will need to be persuasive here.
Pistorius will need to represent himself differently to Darren Fresco and Samantha Taylor, who recalled incidents in which he came across as a gun-toting hothead. The court heard how he once accidentally fired a gun in a crowded restaurant and got Fresco to take the blame, and also how he angrily shot at a traffic light. Ideally the defence will want to make these events seem irrelevant.
Pistorius may also have to offer an inside look into his relationship with Steenkamp, after the court heard messages saying she was sometimes scared of him. He has always insisted that they were very much in love.
There was also some debate over whether Pistorius was wearing his prosthetics when he bashed the toilet door with a cricket bat. In his statement, he said he was but forensic expert Johan Vermeulen told the court he thought the low angle of the marks on the door show he was on his stumps. It is yet to be seen how significant this discrepancy may be for the defence.
All eyes on Pistorius
The defence, as usual, would have had the opportunity to ask the judge to dismiss the trial after the prosecution case ended, but they chose not to for whatever reason. It could be that they felt the prosecution presented some strong points and it would be more successful to push ahead with their witnesses, especially Pistorius himself.
The difficulty with a trial like this is that there were no eyewitnesses to the event. Some neighbours heard noises and the first people Pistorius phoned saw him with Steenkamp’s body, but everything else is subjective and relies on Pistorius’s testimony.
One thing is for sure — the whole world will be watching him next week.