Oscar Pistorius trial verdict: 6 key points the judge must consider
After months of evidence, Judge Thokozile Masipa will begin delivering her verdict tomorrow. Here are they key points she will have to consider
For the last 33 days, the judge in the trial of Oscar Pistorius has been considering her verdict.
Judge Thokozile Masipa must decide whether the Blade Runner is guilty of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, and if so whether that killing amounts to pre-meditated murder, murder, or culpable homicide.
She has read and heard arguments from both the prosecution and defence teams over the course of the six-month trial, and must now decide which she believes has proved their case.
But there are great differences between the two camps, with the athlete denying that he intended to kill Reeva, while the prosecution says he shot her following a row.
Here are six of the key points that Judge Masipa will look at in reaching her verdict.
1. Screams or crying
Neighbours said that they heard a woman screaming in fear the night that Reeva was shot dead.
Dr Johan Stipp and his wife Anette both said they heard a woman’s voice. Mrs Stipp said: “It was moments after the shots I heard a lady screaming, terrified, terrified screaming. The screaming just continued. It did not stop.”
Another neighbour, Michelle Burger, said she heard “blood curdling screams” that she belonged to a woman.
However, Pistorius defence counsel Barry Roux says that Pistorius screams like a woman when he is distressed.
During his own evidence, the athlete said he screamed “the entire time” as he tried to hit the bathroom door down with a cricket bat.
He told the court he was crying for the Lord to help him, and screaming for Reeva.
“I was overcome with terror and despair,” he said.
Once he broke through the door, he said he saw a key on the floor which he used to open the door and reach Reeva.
“She was on the floor with her right arm on the toilet… her head was on her shoulder.”
As he tried to lift her and carry her downstairs, he said he was talking to her, saying: “Baby please hold on. Jesus please help me. I was praying for her.”
2. Gunshots or cricket bat hitting door?
There were two sets of loud noises heard coming from Pistorius’s house. One was gunshots, the other was the sound of a cricket bat as he struck it against the door.
Sound recordings were played in court by the defence team to show that the noises were similar and could easily be confused.
The noises are relevant to the case because neighbours heard screaming before the loud noises.
This, the prosecution says, is because there was an argument before Pistorius shot at the toilet door, knowing Reeva was locked inside.
However, Pistorius’s team says that the screaming was from the athlete.
3. Movement of evidence
Pistorius claims that crucial pieces of evidence in the bedroom, bathroom and toilet cubicle were moved by police officers.
Among them were fans by the balcony door, the duvet, and a magazine rack.
Defence barrister Barry Roux says that images taken at the scene show that evidence was moved around, contrary to procedure.
The pictures were taken by warrant officer Bennie van Staden and Mr Roux says they show that there was chaos at the scene. Mr van Staden said he did not know who moved items.
However, prosecutor Gerrie Nel told Pistorius during his evidence that he was making his evidence up as he went along and the items in their locations in the pictures did not fit with his account.
4. Reeva’s movements while Oscar’s back was turned
Pistorius says that on February 13 he started falling asleep while lying on Reeva and he asked her to bring the fans in before she went to sleep.
He said he woke up and the fans were still running and the door was open. Reeva asked him: “Can’t you sleep my baba?”
So he got up, moved the fans back inside, closed the door and went to drape a pair of Reeva’s jeans over an LED on the amplifier to cover the light.
While doing this, according to his account, Reeva must have got up, walked behind him and entered the bathroom.
He heard the bathroom window slide open and said: “That’s the moment everything changed. I thought there was a burglar that was gaining entry into my home.”
However, the prosecution says this is not the case and he actually knew where Reeva was and he chased her into the bathroom.
5. Status of their relationship
Police IT expert Captain Francois Moller told the court he had examined thousands of text messages sent by Pistorius and Reeva to each other .
He said “90 per cent” of them showed a “loving, normal” relationship.
But he picked out exceptions which he believed to be relevant to the case.
These messages painted a picture of Pistorius as a controlling and jealous boyfriend.
In contrast, Reeva came across as a young woman deeply in love, but unhappy with the Pistorius’ outbursts.
On 27 January, 2013, just a few weeks before she was shot dead, Reeva wrote in one message:
“I was not flirting with anyone today I feel sick that you suggested that”
“I’m scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and how you will react to me”
“I do everything to make you happy and to not say anything to rock the boat with you”.
The only time that Reeva told Pistorius that she loved him was in the Valentine’s card that he did not open until after her death. He never got chance to say it.
Did his mental health play a role?
The court heard after 30 days of assessment on a psychiatric unit that Pistorius was not mentally ill when he shot Reeva.
A report said: “At the time of the alleged offences, the accused did not suffer from a mental disorder or mental defect that affected his ability to distinguish between the rightful or wrongful nature of his deeds.”
However it was acknowledged that he is ‘vulnerable to danger’ and at risk of suicide.
The first defence witness to be called was Dr Gerald Versfeld, the physician who has known Pistorius since he was a baby and amputated his legs.
Speaking in a slow and deliberate tone, he recalled the details of the athlete’s ‘congenital deformities’ as a child and the difficult decision he had to make to remove his limbs.
He went into great detail about the discomfort Pistorius suffers while using his prosthetics, and the instability which he endures.
At one point he even asked the judge to come down from her seat to examine Pistorius and his stumps up close.
But his telling contribution came towards the end of his evidence when he concluded that Pistorius is ‘vulnerable’ and that he would have trouble turning and running from danger, unless he had a weapon.
He was also described as an “anxious individual” who was “hyper-vigilant” and the court heard that he suffers from agoraphobia, particularly when he isn’t wearing his prosthesis.
He told a psychologist: “I am stuffed without them.”