Ronan Farrow Daily   |  April 09, 2014

Prosecution grills Oscar Pistorius

NBC’s Mike Taibbi has the latest from Pretoria, South Africa on the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius. Then, attorney Tom Mesereau discusses prosecutor Gerrie Nel’s strategy in the trial.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> today we'll turn to another dramatic episode in the trial that has the world transfixed. of course, that is bladerunner oscar pistorius . on the stand for a second time, this time to face the prosecution. prosecutors demanded that pistorius admit that he killed reeva steenkamp.

>> what was your mistake?

>> my mistake is i took reeva's life.

>> you killed her. you shot and killed her. you need to take responsibility for that.

>> i did, my lady.

>> the prosecution also showed grask graphic photos to the court. they told pistorius to look and he refused.

>> i've taken responsibility. but i will not look at a picture where i'm torment eed by what i saw and felt that night.

>> emotional day. the prosecutor also had a disturbing and unexpected device for capturing the extent of the damage to reeva steenkamp's body. video of oscar pistorius shooting a watermelon. you can see him firing, and then see the incredible explosive damage to that watermelon. a vivid image for the court. nbc news correspondent mike taibbi has the latest.

>> reporter: ronan , oscar pistorius showed up this morning to complete the unchallenged version of his story about why he shot and killed girlfriend reeva steenkamp. his attorney asked, did you intend to kill reeva steenkamp? pistorius said, no, i didn't intend to kill her, or anyone else for that matter. then came the challenging part, the beginning of what's expected to be a withering cross-examination by prthe prosecutor. pistorius said i made a mistake, he hammered him for more than 40 seconds and said, no, you shot and killed her. say that you shot and killed her. finally pistorius agreed that that's what he had done. then he moved on to something that sounded curious in the beginning. he said, did you ever use the word or in the presence of someone who did use the word zombie stomper? a lot of people in the courtroom didn't know what that meant. they knew quickly, because the prosecutor played a video from sky news, a couple of pals on a shooting range , firing a shotgun and then pistols into a watermelon which exploded on impact from the bullet. then you can hear voices, one of them pistorius ', he conceded, saying it's softer than a brain, it's a zombie stopper. he demonstrated either he didn't remember or was not telling the truth on the stand. now escalated it from there. he said, isn't that what happened, referring to the explosion of the watermelon? isn't that what happened to reeva steenkamp's head? then he popped up a photograph of a death shot of reeva steenkamp. at that point, pistorius lost it again. he's done this three days in a row, and he said i don't have to look at a photograph. i was there. i saw it. and he began sobbing and court was adjourned at that point for about 20 minutes before he composed himself and came back in. the rest of the day the attorney picked apart small items, statements that pistorius made. small differences in what he said, a pattern of what is expected to be an attempt by jerry nell to show that pistorius is unable to reconcile some things that he said before, with some things that he said in his own statement on the stand over the past three days. cross-examination has now begun. ronan ?

>> it certainly has begun. that was nbc's mike taibbi . the prosecutor you just heard about in the pistorius trial is a man named jerry nell . his nickname, pit bull . he once spent eight days straight grilling a witness on the stand. what is nell 's strategy with pistorius ? joining me for an answer to that, attorney tom mesereau representing a range of high-profile clients, including michael jackson . first up, how do you think this gambit of playing that watermelon footage for the court? obviously a devastating moment in that courtroom.

>> well, the prosecutor's trying to show there's a very different side of this defendant. we've's heard days of testimony where he's been crying, breaking down, vomiting, showing his extraordinary sensitivity to this. telling everyone he's been haunted by this, minute by minute, ever since it happened. the prosecutor is trying to show that before this shooting took place, this individual was arrogant, self-entitled, nars narcissist narcissistic, selfish, free with his words, free with firing guns. a very egotistical individual who thought the rules didn't apply to him. to do that, he has to shift the tone quickly. that's why he went after him right away. he wanted to change the atmosphere in the courtroom, and start exposing mr. pistorius as a very different person than his own lawyer has tried to portray. i think this prosecutor varies his cross. sometimes he'll be aggressive, and sometimes he'll be a little slower and kinder. but the purpose is going to be to wear pistorius down and get him to reveal exactly who he is, who this prosecutor believes is not as sympathetic as he would like others to think.

>> he accomplished the mood change very readily today. but is it possible he went too far, showing those graphic photos to him over and over again, forcing him to say, i don't want to see it, playing the footage with the comment about softer than a brain, really forcing this man to break down again? does he risk making oscar pistorius seem more sympathetic?

>> he would run that risk more with 12 jurors in america than i think he will with this particular judge. this judge has seen it all. it's a jury of one person. she has seen hundreds of criminal trials, probably a thousand witnesses testify. i don't think she'll overreact to pistorius ' emotion and i don't think she'll overreact to this prosecutor's aggressive behavior . i don't think emotion is going to drive her as much as it might some other individuals on a jury.

>> all right. thank you so much, tom interesting assessment today. we may call on you again on that.

>> thanks for having me, ronan .