Conflict & Tragedy
Prosecution vs. Pistorius: Who has the more believable argument?
The trial hasn’t even started yet, and the coverage has already reached a circuslike frenzy. Like a pack of hyenas on a hunt, a group of photographers and press on bikes followed Oscar Pistorius’ car Friday as he left with family after a court granted him bail totaling about $112,000 (along with a few stipulations).
It seems to be all about the athlete, and part of that is understandable. The world we live in adores celebrity, and Pistorius certainly fits a unique niche. Overcoming his disability to be the first double-amputee runner to compete in the Olympics is indeed impressive. But now the 26-year-old is charged with murdering his model/law school-graduate girlfriend, 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day, and many cannot make the shift from Oscar the victor to Oscar the villain.
Whether you’re a worshipping fan, an admirer of his athletic courage, or rooting for Reeva, let’s look at the case as it stands now. Who makes a more compelling argument—the prosecution or the defense?
What immediately jumped out at me is the symbolism of the date. Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated to lovers, ended with Pistorius shooting dead the woman he says he loved. Does this mean anything significant, or is it just a stunning coincidence?
Now, here is Oscar Pistorius’ side of the story:
He said their love was strong, that she got him a Valentine’s Day present but forced him to promise not to open it before morning. He didn’t say if he got her a present.
So after a quiet evening at home, where he watched television and his girlfriend did yoga before retiring to bed, Pistorius said he had gotten up during the early hours on Feb. 14 to close the blinds. He said he wasn’t wearing his prosthetic legs. He then heard a noise coming from the bathroom and panicked, for he thought it was an intruder. Feeling vulnerable because he said he still wasn’t wearing his legs, he went to get his gun. He was doing all this in the pitch dark, he said, because he was afraid. He went into the master bathroom because he remembered he had left the windows there open, and a ladder was standing against the wall outside—left there by workers.
Again, still maneuvering on his stumps sans legs, he went to the bathroom and shot through the door of the adjoining toilet, where he said the noise was coming from. All this time, he didn’t hear anything from girlfriend Reeva, who he assumed was in their bed asleep.
While pumping off bullets into the powder room, Oscar said he shouted for Reeva to call the police. She did not respond, and it was then it dawned on him that it could be his lover in the powder room where he has just fired a barrage of bullets.
The accused said he ran—or I should say moved as fast as he could, for according to him he still wasn’t wearing his legs—to get his bat to break down the locked door to the powder room. It was then he saw the horrific sight: his girlfriend, Reeva, slumped over and shot multiple times.
It gets a little fuzzy here for me. I think he said he tried to move her but couldn’t, so he went to put on his legs. He made some calls, but the sequence is a tad off. What stood out was that none of the calls were to police or a hospital. He called the gated community’s manager to tell him to call for help. Then he said he carried Reeva downstairs, where she died in his arms.
“I tried to render the assistance to Reeva that I could but she died in my arms,” Pistorius reportedly told the court during his bail hearing this week.
Here’s the prosecution side of the story:
The prosecution has charged Pistorius with premeditated murder and says it can prove the shooting death of Steenkamp was no accident. The prosecution poked holes in the defendant’s story, asking key questions and calling the accused an outright liar.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel dramatically told the court on Thursday that one would have to really stretch their imagination to believe Pistorius’ version of what happened that night, adding, “Why would she not have shouted, ‘Where are you [Oscar]? What's going on?’ She did not say a word. She did not scream. She did nothing! I think that’s improbable. … It’s not true!”
Pistorius’ gun holster was reportedly found under the side of the bed where Reeva slept, which raises the question of how he retrieved the gun without seeing if his girlfriend was in bed. The bathroom is located where he would have to pass by her side of the bed twice. How did he miss her?
If he was so scared, why didn’t he wake his girlfriend and head down the stairs, away from the bathroom? He said he wasn’t wearing his prosthetic legs, so how did the trajectory of the bullets point down as if delivered from a height?
Reeva was shot four times, and the prosecution claims the angle of the bullets showed Pistorius was aiming for the toilet, as if he knew someone was sitting there.
The court also has a problem with him not calling law enforcement or for medical help himself.
Then there are the accounts of witnesses who said they heard loud arguing around the time Pistorius claimed he and his lover were asleep. One witness said they heard a woman screaming, followed by gunshots.
If the defendant was as afraid of burglars or intruders as he claimed, why did he sleep with his windows open? Why would he immediately start shooting through a door without knowing where his girlfriend was? Why was the door locked?
Two bloody phones were found in the bathroom. If they belonged to Reeva, why did she have a phone in a locked powder room at 3 a.m.?
Whatever happened during the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day, only Oscar and Reeva know all the details, and one is not here to tell us. The court has to speak for Reeva the best way it can, so the prosecution may want to add some lesser charges. Sticking to premeditated murder might cause them to lose. And with the bungling of first lead detective Hilton Botha, who was kicked off the case during the bail hearing, the prosecution needs all the help they can get. Botha is now facing his own attempted-murder charges.
The prosecution believes Oscar Pistorius murdered Reeva Steenkamp in a jealous or psychotic rage. The defense claims it was a horrible accident.
Who do you believe?
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