Is the Oscar Pistorius case simply running ahead of schedule or does the state have new and conclusive “smoking gun” evidence? Alternatively, has the state’s case faltered to the point that the prosecutor is ready to admit defeat?
An unexpected adjournment in the Oscar Pistorius trial requested by the prosecution’s advocate Gerrie Nel has resulted in legal commentators speculating about what might be going on behind closed doors.
The state initially listed 107 witnesses but has only called 18 of them, leading many people to wonder how much longer the trial would take to get through all the witnesses. However Nel told the judge he only has four or five witnesses left to call, meaning Pistorius could take the stand as early as next week.
On Wednesday Nel requested time â€œin the interests of justice” to prepare the final stages of the state’s case. He said he had not expected the cross-examination of the witnesses and wanted to spend Thursday and the Human Rights Day long weekend to consult his remaining witnesses about the direction the case was taking.
It may simply be that the case is running ahead of schedule, University of Cape Town senior law lecturer Kelly Phelps told Fairfax Media. However, another possibility is that the state has new and conclusive â€œsmoking gun” evidence, which needs to be examined before the case proceeds. Alternatively, Phelps said it could be that the state’s case has has been fundamentally damaged and the prosecutor is ready to admit defeat; Nel needs time to assess whether there is enough evidence to proceed at all.
Some of the people in the initial witness list who have yet to take the stand include Pistorius’ sister, father and uncle as well as Steenkamp’s ex-boyfriend Warren Lahoud, one of Pistorius’s ex-girlfriends Melissa Rom, and John Stander, the estate manager Pistorius first called after the shooting.
Meanwhile, there is speculation that one of the witnesses still to be called could be an Apple expert who cracked open Pistorius’s iPhone.
The defence will also call their own witnesses including forensic experts.
Once the prosecution rests its case, Pistorius’s legal team has the option of calling for the whole case to be thrown out, according to CNN. But it is “not clear that the defence has so completely rebutted the state’s case that the judge would end it there”.
Court proceedings will resume on Monday 24 March.