Oscar Pistorius’s defence lawyer said Friday the “cold facts” did not prove the star sprinter had intended to kill his model girlfriend, as he launched a final bid to save the “Blade Runner” from life in prison.
In his closing argument, fiery defence lawyer Barry Roux sought to pick apart the prosecution’s case that his famous client had deliberately murdered 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp after an argument in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013.
The gripping five-month murder trial that has at times played out like a soap opera — broadcast around the world — reaches its finale Friday ahead of Judge Thokozile Masipa’s verdict, which could come within weeks.
Making his last-ditch argument to the court, Roux accused police and prosecutors of ignoring evidence from Pistorius’s upmarket Pretoria home that did not support its “circumstantial” case, a day after the prosecution painted the athlete as a liar.
“The failure of the state to present that evidence leaves one big question mark,” said Roux, “that’s the failure of the state’s case.”
He said the evidence in hand suggested the 27-year-old Paralympian should never have faced a murder trial, but rather the lesser charge of culpable homicide.
The defence has sought to portray Pistorius as a “highly-vulnerable individual” obsessed with safety — a result of a difficult childhood and his disability — in a country with a sky-high crime rate.
During the trial Pistorius underwent psychiatric evaluation and an ensuing report said he was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, but was not suffering any mental illness that could prevent him being held criminally responsible for his actions.
“That constant reminder, I do not have legs, I cannot run away, I am not the same, that’s with him, he can’t pretend, he can’t pretend that it’s fine,” said Roux on Friday.
– ‘Deceitful witness’-
On Thursday Pistorius, a double amputee known as the “Blade Runner” for his prosthetic legs, was branded a “deceitful” witness by prosecutor Gerrie Nel in his final arguments.
Pistorius’s efforts to concoct an alibi had led to a “snowball effect” of lies requiring more lies to back them up, Nel said.
The athlete says he killed Steenkamp by firing four shots through a locked toilet door after mistaking her for an intruder.
The prosecution argues that he deliberately killed her after an argument.
“In an attempt to tailor his version to support his plea explanation, he tangled himself in a web,” said Nel.
Summing up the state’s meticulous 200-page review of evidence, Nel said Pistorius was guilty of “a baker’s dozen” of misleading statements.
Nel addressed the court for most of the day on Thursday before the defence had a brief opportunity to outline the counter-arguments it will present on Friday.
Roux has indicated that he will focus on the timeline of events the night of the shooting, from disputed sounds of gunshots and equally disputed sounds of screams heard by neighbours.
Pistorius, who rose to international fame when he competed alongside able-bodied runners at the 2012 London Olympics, has at times sat weeping and vomiting in the dock as grisly details of Steenkamp’s death were presented.
Once a poster boy for disabled sport, he has been stripped of lucrative endorsement deals by global brands and has withdrawn from all competition.
He faces 25 years in jail if he is convicted of premeditated murder. He also faces three separate gun-related charges.
Even if he is not found guilty of premeditated murder, Pistorius could still be convicted and jailed on alternative charges of culpable homicide, or manslaughter.
Legal analysts say the athlete, once revered for his triumph over disability, did damage his case by appearing to offer two different defences.
Nearly 40 witnesses ranging from a jilted ex-girlfriend to a forensic geologist testified, creating a hefty record with thousands of pages.
Such was the intensity of the public gaze that some witnesses, including Pistorius, refused to testify in front of cameras, while some refused to take the stand at all.