Double-amputee Olympian Oscar Pistorius was a "deceitful" witness who lied again and again during his murder trial to present a version of events lacking "any truth," a prosecutor said Thursday.
Gerrie Nel opened his closing argument Thursday by calling criminal trials a "blunt implement for digging up the truth." The prosecutor told the court that Pistorius had shown a "blatant disregard" for the law in the run up to his girlfriend's death and always painted himself “the victim of circumstance.” Pistorius had elected to testify, Nel noted, calling the sprinter a "deceitful witness" whose version of events was "absolutely devoid of any truth."
Pistorius admits to fatally shooting model and law graduate Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year in Pretoria, South Africa, but insists he mistook her for an intruder. Prosecutors say Pistorius intentionally shot Steenkamp after an argument.
For the first time since the trial’s start, the fathers of Pistorius and Steenkamp were both in court. They heard Nel take pains to paint Pistorius as an untruthful blame-shifter who repeatedly tweaked and tailored his version of events of what happened the night Steenkamp died. Nel urged the court to look at each piece of evidence as a “feather” that when piled together will tip the scales in favor of the prosecution.
Calling the runner’s account “a farce,” Nel said the prosecution had found numerous examples of inconsistencies but decided to present just 13 – “a baker’s dozen” – in closing arguments.
Pistorius’ lies snowballed to a point that they became “ridiculous,” Nel argued, alleging a changing version of events regarding everything from the position of a duvet to placement of fans. He also accused Pistorius of contrived emotional outbursts at trial but no "normal" emotional reaction to seeing Steenkamp's lifeless body.
“His version is impossible and cannot be reasonably, possible true,” Nel said. “It’s a clear indication of his mendacity and his deceitfulness.”
Nel ripped into Pistorius’ testimony, calling him an “appalling witness” who was “not interested in telling the truth” but in defending his life.
“There is a mosaic of objective facts,” Nel said. “During his evidence, he destroyed the mosaic.”
Nel also accused Pistorius’ legal team of presenting two defenses that can never be reconciled – self-defense and involuntary action. “It’s either one or the other,” Nel said, adding that the defense’s promise to call witnesses who could prove the so-called "Blade Runner" sounds like a woman when he screams never happened.
Summing up his closing argument, Nel noted that whether Pistorius thought he was shooting his girlfriend or an intruder - as put forward by the defense - was irrelevant. Either way, Nel argued, the runner would be guilty of murder.
“He had lots of time for reflection,” Nel said. “I don’t know when he armed himself, but he made up his mind. That, my lady, is pre-planning.”
Nel expressed incredulity that Pistorious presence of mind to grab a firearm, approach the threat – but could maintain that pulling the trigger was “involuntary.”
Likening the case to a race, Nel said “the baton of truth” was not with Pistorius.
“He cannot complete this race,” Nel said. “And he can only blame himself.”
The trial continues, with closing arguments from the defense due to continue on Friday.
- Cassandra Vinograd