Fact based Reporting
by Rob Roman
research by Amanda Chen
How are the majority of people in South Africa and the world responding to the verdict in the Oscar Pistorius case? The majority of people do have a strong feeling that Oscar Pistorius knew it was his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, standing behind the door. When Oscar fired 4, 9 mm black talon bullets from his Parabellum semi-automatic handgun into the door of a small locked toilet door, did he really think it was an intruder?
Knowing in your heart something happened and proving it are two different things, as the Steenkamp family, the prosecution, and the majority of onlookers are starting to find out. Beyond a reasonable doubt is a very high hill. Why do people feel like they do, and why did the judge make the decision she made? Let’s take a look inside the case.
Many Charges Dropped
The Oscar Pistorius murder trial has ended with a finding of culpable homicide and one count of illegally discharging a firearm at a public restaurant. This seems like a fair verdict, as it seems to be very difficult to prove that Pistorius knowingly chased after and shot his girlfriend to death on Valentine’s Eve 2013.
He was found guilty of the equivalent of manslaughter, because he acted negligently in shooting 4 times through a toilet room door without knowing who, if anyone was inside. Many people were sure that this was a heat of passion murder where Oscar lost his temper and snapped. There is good reason for that belief. Not guilty of 2nd degree murder sometimes means it just could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, not that it didn’t happen.
Why does this feel wrong?
Why are so many people, a majority,really, convinced that Oscar Pistorius did indeed lose control and try to shoot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp? This has to do with circumstantial evidence. You can say there is a reasonable explanation for almost any single piece of circumstantial evidence. You can even try to eliminate some of that evidence, as the Judge did, but when you tie it all together, it becomes very compelling.
As for the lesser charges, Judge Masipa ruled that Oscar could not be found guilty of illegally keeping ammunition, because his father claimed it was his, case closed. For the charge of firing a gun through a sunroof while riding with his ex-girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, and his friend, Daren Fresco, the finding is more convoluted. Samantha and Daren describe the same story of Oscar firing the weapon through the sunroof. As the two accounts varied in small details, as any two accounts will, the judge ruled that the witnesses accounts could not be
relied upon. What? For the claim Oscar fired a weapon under the table at a crowded outdoor restaurant, there was no getting out of that one.
The Story that could not be
Oscar’s story: Imagine for a moment that you did lose control, lost your temper in an argument and went after your partner with a firearm. Now imagine you lived in Oscar’s home and your partner ended up shot dead in the bathroom. You need to come up with a story. What would the story be? There’s not a whole lot of options. It will have to be a burglar. The simple question is how are you going to explain not knowing that it was your partner, and not a burglar, in the bathroom locked in the toilet room.?
You need an excuse that would 1) Prevent you from being next to your partner when you heard the noise. 2) Stop you from noticing what your partner is doing 3) Stop you from hearing your partner go off to the toilet 4) Stop you from seeing you partner.
The fan story does all these things. He is distracted, he is facing away from his partner, his hearing is affected by the fan and outside noises, he is going to the balcony, but he doesn’t go out onto the balcony. Finally, he CLOSES the curtains and the blinds, to make the room as dark as possible.
This is how Oscar will turn and get his gun from under the bed without ever seeing Reeva in that small bedroom, a story almost impossible to believe. This is where the LED lights of the stereo come into play. Who ever mentioned the LED lights? Who even cares about that? Oscar does. Only Oscar. How would he remember this? This is because he realizes that with that blue light from the stereo, the prosecution will say it was not pitch dark in the bedroom. So Oscar
was sure to add this unneeded detail about throwing the jeans over the stereo. Only Oscar knows you can see quite well in the dark with the blue lights of the stereo on. He was so concerned about that that he adds the jeans over the stereo to his story. This along with him closing the curtains and the blinds before failing to see Reeva seals the deal. This story is a complete fraud.
Oscar cleverly adds the part where as he is arising to “get the fan”. According to him, Reeva asks him if he’s having trouble sleeping. How convenient, as this is intended to show he had known for sure she was in bed when he got up to “get the fan”.
Further, there already was a fan inside the bedroom. There was one for the balcony and one for the bedroom. The fan in the bedroom was being used. There was no usual place for the second fan to be plugged in. In other words, there is no need to bring a second fan into the room and it hadn’t been done in the past. The whole fan story is designed to get Oscar away from the bed and to get the door to the balcony open as a distraction and so Oscar’s hearing would be
affected by the fan and other outside noises. The fan story was made up, there is no need to get a fan. Oscar never went to get that fan.
Problems with the prosecution and the defense
Police initially investigating an accident instead of a murder, weren’t as careful to preserve the scene in photos. They moved the fan because it blocked access to the balcony door, etc. before they took photos. There was also a missing extension cord. Had they preserved the scene in photos properly, the case would have been a lock for guilty M2.
If Oscar had nothing to hide he would have just freely testified to his story rather than being so defensive and evasive and a bad witness as the judge said he was. It seems he was very worried about getting tripped up in his own story. Oscar did think of a story very quickly after firing a loaded weapon in a crowded restaurant. His first though after “Is anybody hurt?”. was followed instantaneously by “How do I get out of this?”. His answer was to convince his friend, Daren Fresco, to take the rap. This is the only gun charge Oscar was convicted of.
Oscar’s Fan story is a simple story that explains how he didn’t notice Reeva wasn’t in the bedroom. It’s really the only story he could have thought up. It covers all the bases.
Oscar implores, the Judge ignores
The Judge wants to ignore two giant pieces of information. 1) There was an argument and it was a prolonged argument, heard by multiple independent witnesses. If in your exclusive neighborhood, you had a loud and prolonged argument, and your neighbor was being tried for murder that happened that same night, wouldn’t you come forward and tell authorities that you were the one having a loud and prolonged argument and not Oscar? I think you would. But no one came forward.
One person cannot have an argument. Oscar may have cried out in a high pitched voice, but this cannot be two people arguing, this is not a woman’s blood curdling scream.
The argument that everyone heard but never was
There was loud arguing heard. One witness heard only the man’s loud, angry voice. In the intervals, whoever was arguing back could not be heard. There was screaming heard before, not after the gunshots. There was screaming that ended with the last gunshot. This was all testified to in court. This should not be ignored by the judge. The account that there was no screaming until after the gunshots, and that the only shots heard with screaming were the in between the shots and the sounds of the cricket bat breaking down the door just isn’t true.
A woman’s blood curdling screams were heard, gunshots were heard, Oscar’s distressed voice was heard, and the banging down of the door with the bat were heard. Oscar’s calls for help were heard. All these were heard. The idea that all these sounds were a one-man show by Oscar Pistorius is a good defense play, but really is just laughable.
Judge Masipa chose to believe the closest neighbors of Oscar’s, and ignored the other witnesses.
Oscar’s pain was his gain
Oscar shows genuine pain and remorse. This in no way means that this must be an accident. Oscar’s pain and remorse are 100% real. He really is sickened by this event and he’s traumatized. He’s traumatized and remorseful because he scared his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp into the toilet room and then fired 4 shots through the door.
The meal that never happened
Oscar claims they were both in bed asleep by 10:00 pm. Stomach Food contents at autopsy suggest that the victim most likely had a meal around 1:00 AM. Time of death was likely around 3:15 AM. Can someone eat and still have undigested food in their stomach 6 hours later? It’s possible, but highly unlikely. Two hours would be the most common time frame. Oscar claims they ate around 7:00 and were in bed sleeping between 9:00 and 10:00. It appears as if Oscar wanted to deny any argument by suggesting the improbable scenario that they were both peacefully sleeping before anyone heard any screaming.
Judge Masipa reasoned that they could have ate at 7:00 PM and then Reeva could have woken up around 1:00AM and unknown to Oscar, could have snuck downstairs for a sniketty snack. She could have, but is that reasonable?
Witnesses saw the toilet room light on before the shots were heard. Reeva had all her things packed, she was wearing shorts, only her jeans were out and she locked herself into the toilet room with her cell phone. All this contradicts Oscar’s story. Singular strands of circumstantial evidence in isolation can be explained away, but spun together they can make a rope strong enough to hang a person with.
Carrying the body and the finger in the mouth
While removing the body from the cramped toilet room to the bathroom may be a good idea, who would pick up the body and carry her down the stairs? Oscar claims he was told not to wait for an ambulance and to bring her to the hospital? Doesn’t that risk further injury? Who would do something like that? I think he should have waited for help before moving Reeva. This is a good way to tamper with evidence of what happened. Really, your only saving 30 seconds or a minute. As for Oscar putting his fingers in Reeva’s mouth, this would alert him if by some miracle she happened to still be alive. He could stop her before she said something. I don’t believe she died in his arms, I believe she died almost instantly in the bathroom and Oscar knew it.
Oscar tried to buy time by preventing security guards from coming to his home. He did not call an ambulance or emergency services. When security guards heard the commotion coming from the home, they called Oscar and he said “Everything’s fine”. Later he called security and asked them to call an ambulance. Was he trying to give them something to do to prevent them from coming to his home too quickly?
Oscar’s friends got there first and they found him coming down the stairs carrying Reeva. Of course he had the intruder story thought up right away. Really, it’s the only story he could have come up with. Of course, he lives in a gated communiuty surrounded by walls and patrolled by guards. He has a firearm, and an alarm system that he didn’t even bother to turn on, according to him (If the alarm really was on, he’s guilty of murder). It’s a dangerous city in
a dangerous country, but not really where Oscar was living.
The inevitable conflict that didn’t exist
Finally there’s personality factors which the Judge also dismissed as too prejudicial or meaning nothing. Oscar was a hot head with an incredible temper who would go ballistic in a heartbeat. That’s a fact. This is part of what makes him a successful professional athlete. Oscar said himself that the only thing he excelled in at school was nothing, so he turned to sports. His previous girlfriend before Reeva was a 17 year-old, and he dumped her in two seconds for Reeva. Oscar is an Alpha type male and quite chauvinistic, and he wasn’t about to change any time soon. Reeva was a refined law school graduate and model. She was very sensitive to domestic violence issues and outspoken against men who would try to control her. Oscar had a very tumultuous and volatile relationship with his previous girlfriend, Samantha Taylor.
Oscar’s Olympic Village roommate from London, 2012, moved out on him and changed rooms because of the constant yelling, screaming, and arguing between Samantha Taylor and Oscar Pistorius. Hello? London calling??
Seventeen years old? Hello? He threatened her with a gun. Hello? Johannesburg calling??
Oil and water
This relationship was most likely not going to work out and they were not compatible. On Valentines day 2013, Reeva was scheduled to deliver a speech on Domestic Violence to a local school. On Valentine’s day 2013, Oscar did receive a shipment of personal firearms. Not that these two competing interests are irreconcilable, but although these two look on the outside to possibly be made for each other, on the inside they were not. Not unless Oscar was willing to go through some drastic changes.
2 eye-witnesses can’t be right?
Somehow, even though there were three people in the car when Oscar Pistorius allegedly fired rounds out of the sunroof, and even though the other two people involved said they witnessed this, the judge has decided it maybe didn’t happen. So, can we say that Oscar Pistorius was negligent, reckless, and indifferent to human life when operating a weapon? The judge says we cannot be sure. The circumstantial evidence is strong as a rope, though.
Unlike in the U.S., where an acquittal is final, in South Africa an acquittal can be appealed by the prosecution. Maybe they will do so. The prosecution erred in having an overzealous prosecutor trying to force evidence to fit a conviction (insisting Oscar was wearing prosthetics when he fired the gun – He was not). Irregularities occurred at the crime scene and with evidence and some things are said to have gone missing. Of course, in the beginning, this was not looked at as a murder case. This means the evidence was not as tightly controlled at the start.
The prosecution bobbled it
This worked out very much in Oscar Pistorius favor by piling a lot of doubt on the prosecution’s evidence and creating sympathy for the accused. The prosecution’s many contentions of Oscar’ recklessness and impulsivity also ended up helping the defense, by making Oscar’s unbelievable story seem much more believable, for a reckless guy like him. Oscar’ vulnerabilities due to a lifetime of disability were also factor.
Appeal likely if no prison time
We will look forward to the sentencing to see if Oscar gets some much deserved prison time, how much community service he gets, and whether the prosecution will appeal the acquittal on the murder charge and take another try at him.
Oscar contends that he is very sorry that he chased Reeva Steenkamp into a toilet and shot and killed her. He’s sorry and he says he will not do it again.
Not significant? What’s app?
According to the judge, the “watts app” messages a few weeks before the shooting where Reeva is explaining why Oscar’s behavior has upset her, are not importanr. Relationships are dynamic, and people are fickle, she said. People are happy and crazy in love one day, and upset andangry the next day. But the judge has forgotten two very important things. The relationship was really only a few weeks old in terms of time spent together. The second is that Reeva was a law
student. Here she is documenting. She is putting it down in writing and revealing her feelings to Oscar. This can be seen as a written warning.
She certainly is not fickle enough to just write down any negative experience she has. These are things she was very upset about. She wanted it down in writing. she wanted to see if Oscar was going to see that his behavior wasn’t acceptable. It was a warning that she wasn’t going to tolerate that kind of behavior if they were going to be together. Messages between the two reveal that Reeva had heard negative things about Oscar and was trying to decide for herself if they were true or not. Texts and IM’s between Reeva and Oscar reveal that Reeva was testing
Oscar out and starting to call him out on some of his behaviors and actions. The judge found this to not be conclusive about anything. Oscar also has a jealous streak a mile wide and Reeva had just completed a successful reality TV show and she wanted to do more. She was becoming quite a success on her own. She was deciding whether or not to get serious with Oscar and she was still on the fence in spite of the Valentine’s “I Love You” card.
The toilet room is the key
The key seems like a major piece of evidence, because a person doesn’t normally feel the need to lock the door in the middle of the night from their sexual partner. The judge imagines that Reeva could have locked the door when she heard Oscar yelling to her to call the police. Reeva also took her smart phone with her. This can also have an innocent explanation: She needed a light to guide her or she just wanted to browse the net or check messages. But if she locked the door because Oscar was yelling to her about an intruder, then why didn’t she call the police?
The key was also on the floor near the door, suggesting it was still in her hand when Reeva was shot. If she was locking the door for protection due to Oscar’s warning, why would she be holding the key? She wouldn’t have removed the key from the door. They kind of glossed over the other evidence about damaged tiles and a smashed in metal panel. There is evidence from the battered door also that there was more of a struggle going on than an intruder in the toilet room. Also, an intruder is not going to corner themselves into a tiny toliet room.
Get out of my house!
Also, Oscar made it a big point that he screamed twice “Get out of my house”. This is a detail he would not generally remember. Maybe he said this because he was worried someone had heard him yell this before the gunshots were heard.
What woke the witnesses?
The witnesses were asleep, and you don’t just wake up and start hearing noises. This is another place the judger had it wrong. There had to be loud noises (probably screaming or the gunshots), that woke the people up in the first place. People were calling exactly at the time the cricket bat shots were heard. People do not respond instantaneously to loud noises. People need time to process things and to react. They must have heard something EARLIER that woke them up and then something that made them call security quite some time BEFORE the cricket bat shots were heard.
Reasons why the verdict was incorrect:
1 The fan story
2 Not seeing, hearing, feeling, having any contact with Reeva
3 The blue LED light
4 The prolonged argument (that the judge says never happened)
5 Telling security “Everything is fine.”
6 Previous incidents of negligence with firearms
7 The coroner’s report suggest Reeva was up at 1:00 AM
8 Reeva only knew Oscar 3 months
9 Reeva had only been with Oscar about 3 weeks total time
10 Reeva was already not sure about and feeling scared sometimes with Oscar
11 Oscar’s previous girlfriend said Oscar was threatening, controlling
12 Oscar’s previous girlfriend said Oscar never closed the curtains
13 Oscar always woke up/asked his previous girlfriend when he heard a noise
14 Witnesses saw lights on in the bathroom before shots were heard
15 Four hollow point bullets fired through a door = intent to kill
(It doesn’t matter if it was Reeva or an unseen intruder)
Reasons why the prosecution lost the case
1 The judge didn’t look at the reasonableness that ALL the circumstances as a whole could be possible.
2 Not just each circumstance singly, but all the circumstances together need to be reasonable.
3 For example, Reeva could have brought her smart phone to the toilet to use as a light. She could have locked the toilet door when she heard Oscar yell out. But if she locked the door because she heard Oscar yell, why didn’t she call the police?
4 Hilton Botha, the original detective, was under suspiscion of murder, had to bow out of the case.
5 The prosecution was too agressive, made some mistaken assumptions.
6 The prosecution contaminated the crime scene and moved some objects.
7 The prosecurion’s attempts to portray Oscar as impulsive and reckless backfired and made Oscar’s highly improbable story more believable.
7:00 PM The time Oscar says he and Reeva had dinner.
9:00-10:00 PM The time Oscar said they went to bed.
1:00 AM The time science says is most likely Reeva had her last meal
1:56 AM Argument heard by witness, could not speak English, only Afrikaans, couldn’t give the direction or what was being said.
2:20 AM Security drove by the home but heard nothing.
3:02 AM Ms. Stipps wakes up to arguing, later hears screams, shots.
3:10 AM Approximate time of the gunshots.
3:15 AM Dr. Stipps had gone to his balcony to hear better, heard screams, shots, calls security and hears the cricket bat shots while on the phone.
3:15 AM Apoproximate time of the cricket bat hits, neighbor’s calls start coming in.
3:19 AM Oscar Pistorius makes calls.
3:50 AM Reeva Steenkamp officially pronounced dead.
**UPDATE** Oscar can be disarmingly polite, courteous and even charming, but Reeva’s best friend’s Dad, her “Johannesburg Pop”, had to tell Pistorius to “back off” when he wouldn’t stop phoning and phoning Reeva and ‘backing her into a corner’.”
“(Samantha Taylor) said their relationship was tempestuous, with Pistorius often “screaming” at her. South African footballer Marc Batchelor said Pistorius threatened to break his legs and “f*** him up” when he defended a friend who was involved in a disagreement with the athlete over Ms. Taylor.
He said: “He phoned me up, saying ‘You piece of shit’, ‘You c***’, all that kind of stuff. He said he was going to f*** me up. I just laughed at him. I told him, ‘Oscar, I can’t hit a man with no legs’.””
“The athlete had to be locked in a room, punched tables and hurled chairs against walls after being beaten in the 200 metres final by Brazilian sprinter Alan Oliveira.
It was Pistorius’s first ever defeat over 200 metres. He was led away after an extraordinary television outburst on the track in which he accused Oliveira of having an unfair advantage because of the length of the blades attached to his legs.”
“Following the outburst he was ushered to an underground room of the Olympic Stadium where he erupted in a temper tantrum.
The double-amputee shouted and screamed at IPC officials before erupting in tears in what one witness described as being “just like a naughty three-year-old”.The athlete then began hitting tables, kicking walls and throwing furniture around as stunned officials gath ered outside the door.”
“It is understood that at various stages Paralympic chiefs went into the room to try to calm him down but each visit saw a fresh escalation of his hysterical reaction.”
Opposing viewpoints are welcome. Please comment.
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What does the evidence and testimony tell you?