Judge Thokozile Masipa, only the second black woman to be
appointed a high court judge in post-apartheid South Africa, will
now analyze more than 4,000 pages of evidence before delivering her
verdict on Sept. 11.
Double amputee Pistorius, 27, once a national icon for reaching the
pinnacle of sport, is accused of murdering Steenkamp, a law graduate
and model, at his home in Pretoria on Valentine's Day last year.
The defense says Pistorius, nicknamed the 'Blade Runner' after his
carbon-fiber prosthetic running legs, shot Steenkamp through a
locked toilet door in self-defense, believing she was an intruder,
and that therefore he should be acquitted.
State prosecutor Gerrie Nel has spent the trial, which began in
March, portraying Pistorius as a gun-obsessed hothead who
deliberately shot Steenkamp, 29, four times as she was taking refuge
in the toilet after an argument.
Cutting through months of complex evidence and testimony, Nel ended
proceedings by returning to his core argument.
"He knew there was a human being in the toilet. That's his
evidence," Nel told the judge.
"His intention was to kill a human being. He's fired
indiscriminately into that toilet. Then m'lady, he is guilty of
murder. There must be consequences."
Defense lawyer Barry Roux said during his own wrapping-up that
psychological evidence had proven the track star had a heightened
fight response because of his disability and was in a terrified and
vulnerable state when he shot Steenkamp.
"You're standing at that door. You're vulnerable. You're anxious.
You're trained as an athlete to react. Take all those factors into
account," Roux said, adding that Pistorius had felt exposed because
he was standing on the stumps of his legs.
"He stands with his finger on the trigger, ready to fire when ready.
In some instances a person will fire reflexively," he added. "That
is your primal instinct."
Roux also argued that prosecutors had only called witnesses who
supported their argument and not other key people, including police
officers, who he said would have undermined their case.
On Thursday Nel said Pistorius had told "a snowball of lies" and had
called for the track star to be convicted of intentional murder, a
crime that could land him with a life sentence.
A potential lesser charge of culpable homicide - comparable to
manslaughter - could carry a sentence of about 15 years.
Pistorius also faces three separate charges, including two counts of
discharging firearms in public and possession of illegal ammunition,
all of which he denies.
To arrive at a verdict, Masipa and her two assistants will have to
weigh up the credibility of testimony on both sides, including that
of Pistorius, who endured more than a week of torrid
cross-examination during which he broke down repeatedly.
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In the absence of a jury, experts say the crux of the case is
whether Masipa accepts or rejects his version of events.
"DEVOID OF ANY TRUTH"
Nel has called for Pistorius' evidence thrown out because it was
"devoid of any truth" and the athlete contradicted himself when he
said during cross-examination that he fired both accidentally and
Roux said the trial should only ever have been on the charge of
culpable homicide, rather than murder, because he said Pistorius had
clearly shot Steenkamp by mistake.
Nel and Roux have focused much of their closing arguments on
evidence from witnesses who say they heard a woman scream before a
volley of shots, supporting the prosecution's position that the
couple had an argument before Steenkamp was killed.
Roux went through the early morning of the shooting minute-by-minute
during his wrapping-up, arguing that the witnesses were confused and
contradictory about the sounds they heard.
He also spent time analyzing photos he said proved the police had
moved items in the couple's bedroom, countering a key claim by Nel
that images of the room proved that Pistorius' version of the events
The courtroom dueling between Nel and Roux, both dynamic advocates
with contrasting styles, has added to the drama in a trial that has
captivated audiences around the world.
Nel, known as 'The Pitbull' because of his fierce cross-examination
style and penchant for the dramatic, has been the perfect foil to
Roux, whose meticulous eye for detail has put the squeeze on even
the most composed prosecution witnesses.
The fathers of both Pistorius and Steenkamp were in court for the
first time this week. The track star's aunt embraced Steenkamp's
father before the trial resumed on Friday.
(Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Gareth Jones and Robin Pomeroy)
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