Wednesday, July 2, 2014
The Wednesday session has ended.
The Daily Maverick is reporting that the defense presented evidence yesterday and today that Pistorius has been depressed and at risk to commit suicide since he shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp. This evidence cuts both ways because he could be depressed about shooting her by mistake believing she was an intruder or he might be depressed because he lost his temper during an argument and shot her to death during a rage outburst. Therefore, this evidence is not useful in determining whether he shot her by mistake as he claims.
To bolster its case that he shot her by mistake, the defense called Pistorius’s manager, Peet van Zyl, who testified that Pistorius was not an angry or violent person and he was very much in love with Reeva Steenkamp. Gerrie Nel pounced on cross examination by confronting him with evidence that Pistorius’s roommate during the London Paralympics asked to be assigned to a different room because Pistorius was on the phone yelling at people for several hours late at night disturbing his sleep.
Nel then asked him if he knew about the time that Pistorius attacked and destroyed a chair upon being informed that he was not selected to run the 4 X 100 meter relay. Van Zyl denied knowledge of the incident which was widely reported at the time. He also denied knowing about Pistorius’s gun fetish.
Given his denial of information that he almost certainly would have known, his close personal relationship with Pistorius and a strong financial interest in a favorable outcome of the trial, I believe it’s unlikely that Judge Masipa will conclude that he was a credible witness.
After reading a portion of Pistorius’s mental health evaluation into the record, which concluded that Pistorius was not narcissistic or psychopathic and there was no evidence that he had a history of aggressive violence, the defense called Sports Medicine Professor Wayne Derman, the Paralympic team doctor. He testified that he worked closely with Pistorius and he noticed that Pistorius had a heightened startle response to loud noises compared to the reactions of other disabled people. He said disabled people generally are more anxious and fearful of being assaulted than people who are not disabled and he cited two studies which show that disabled people are 50% more likely to be assaulted than people who are not disabled. Their elevated anxiety results in a loss of control over their automatic response.
Court recessed until tomorrow morning when Professor Derman will resume the stand.
I presume he will conclude sometime around midmorning that Pistorius had little control over his response to hearing a noise in the bathroom and reacted on autopilot without intent to kill when he shot through the door to the toilet stall.
Then we will watch the master of cross examination, Gerrie Nel, attempt to deconstruct the defense theory of the case.
Professor Derman’s opinion, of course, is based on an assumption that Pistorius told the truth. His theory is vulnerable to attack because of the amount of time that passed between the sound that supposedly awakened him and the specific things that Pistorius said he did before he pulled the trigger. Pulling the trigger was not an automatic response.
He was armed and he pulled the trigger four times firing four shots through a closed door when he was not in any immediate danger of an attack. Even if he believed that an intruder was in the toilet stall behind the door when he pulled the trigger, he was at least grossly negligent, if not reckless.
Unfortunately for Pistorius, it’s difficult to imagine that he did not know Reeva Steenkamp was behind that door.
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