Thursday, April 17, 2014
In the following exchange regarding the position of the magazine rack in the toilet room where Reeva Steenkamp was shot to death, we are going to see an excellent example of a skilled prosecutor leading a very compliant defense expert witness into a trap and springing it shut.
The position of the magazine rack is important to the outcome of the trial because Oscar Pistorius testified that he fired his gun in response to hearing the magazine rack hitting or being hit by something and he was certain that it was not in the position in which the police claimed to have discovered it when they investigated and photographed the scene. The graphic photo showed the magazine rack next to the toilet bowl on the side opposite the door and positioned at an angle to the wall.
The defense contends that the magazine rack was close to the door when Reeva Steenkamp bumped it while reaching for the handle to open the door.
The prosecution contends that they were having an argument and she locked herself in the bathroom to get away from him. They argue that he fired through the door, killing her as she stood away from the door on the far side of the toilet bowl.
Roger Dixon is the compliant defense expert because Gerrie Nel so thoroughly humiliated him yesterday regarding his lack of integrity that today he was absolutely determined to defend his integrity no matter the cost to Pistorius by insisting that the magazine rack was positioned where the police said they found it. That is, on the other side of the toilet contrary to what Pistorius said.
The exchange begins around the 45 minute mark of Session 1 earlier today.
Nel: Now are you saying that after the wound to the back was sustained on your reconstruction, that the deceased got up again . . . you’re not saying that?
Dixon: The deceased was lifted, up my Lady, by Mr. Pistorius when he took her out of the bathroom. Other than that, I do not believe that she made any more voluntary movements after she fell to the floor.
Nel: On your reconstruction [with glasses twirling], having fallen on the magazine rack, the furthest point of the magazine rack from the toilet, that’s what you said, and that caused the bruise to the buttocks . . .
Dixon: The contusion as Mr. Simmonds said . . .
Nel: Good. And in the same movement, it caused the two contusions on the back, am I correct?
Dixon: That is correct, my Lady.
Nel: And from that position she must have fallen forward toward the toilet bowl . . .
Dixon: That is my interpretation, my Lady.
Nel: Then one would expect the magazine rack to be there?
Dixon: That is so, my Lady.
Nel: The accused said to this court that it definitely wasn’t there. Are you giving a version that is different than the accused version?
Dixon: My Lady, my reconstruction of the events in that toilet is based on the evidence that I can see and measure and has been recorded by other people.
Nel: So what you’re saying, let me just get that . . Whatever the accused is saying, you’re saying he’s wrong.
Dixon: My Lady, I am giving testimony on what I observe and interpret. I am not saying that anyone else is right or wrong.
Nel: Can the accused be right, if you’re right? He said the magazine rack was definitely not there. Then he must be wrong. You’re his witness. What are you saying about that?
Dixon then refers to a photograph of the blood on the floor next to the toilet and shows two marks — one of a dry spot where the blood congealed around one leg of the magazine rack, which was positioned in a pool of her blood next to the toilet bowl on the far side of the toilet from the door, and the second of a bloody smudge on the floor next to the wall after the magazine rack was moved. The photograph contradicts Pistorius’s testimony.
In other words, in a desperate move to salvage his honor, dignity and professional reputation, Dixon used the photograph to drive another nail into Pistorius’s coffin.
I have never seen that done before.
Nel is a master of his craft and if you are at all interested in the art of cross examination, you need to watch him in action.
The trial of Oscar Pistorius resumes on Monday, May 5th.
That is also the scheduled date for the beginning of Michael Dunn’s retrial, although I am still anticipating a defense continuance.
In the meantime, we will check in on the other cases we have been covering and take another look at the Boston Marathon Bomber case.
Please let us know if you have any other cases you would like to see us discuss.
Finally, if you have not already made a donation this month and can afford to make one, please do so.
Thank you, Fred