Oscar on his own in the witness box

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Copy of Copy of MSH06_SAFRICA-PISTORIUS_0410_11 [1] REUTERS Defence lawyer Barry Roux looks on as State prosecutor Gerrie Nel questions Oscar Pistorius during his ongoing murder trial in Pretoria. Picture: Werner Beukes

Pretoria - Barry Roux might be going home at night and throwing darts at a picture of Oscar Pistorius’s face.

He might be fuming as he watches his witness point towards him for some of the apparent errors prosecutor Gerrie Nel is raising.

Then again, he might be laughing this off. In fact, he’s only slouching in his chair because he’s muttering to himself: “Oh Gerrie, you old warhorse, I knew you’d pull this stunt.”

Clearly, I don’t know what Roux is thinking. But then again, neither does Pistorius. From the time Pistorius got into that witness box, until he finishes his cross-examination, Roux can give him no advice, no feedback. He’s simply not allowed to by law.

Professor James Grant, of the Wits University School of Law, said it was possible that Pistorius was even reading newspapers or watching television commentators to get legal advice. He said that it was “laughable” that, on several occasions, Pistorius had said errors in testimony were due to his respected senior counsel.

Grant said the chances of Roux making these mistakes – forgetting to cross-examine or confusing information – were “so slight as to be absurd”.

“I think it appears that a pattern is beginning to emerge… that Oscar doesn’t take responsibility for anything,” Grant said.

But Kelly Phelps, senior lecturer at the department of public law at the University of Cape Town, took a different view, saying she didn’t think there was clear, compelling evidence of Pistorius blaming his lawyers.

She said that from a legal perspective, none of the issues – for example, that Pistorius had not written his bail application and so things could be slightly different from his evidence – were unusual.

She laughed at the idea that Roux would be perturbed.

“Roux probably thinks those comments are a storm in a teacup,” she said.

“I highly doubt that Roux would have been significantly ruffled or even surprised by the approach that Nel has taken.”

Phelps said yesterday’s cross-examination was significant, because up until this point, Nel had kept his hand close to his chest. He had finally put on the record the State’s version that Reeva Steenkamp and Pistorius argued before she ran screaming to the bathroom.

She said Pistorius, on the aspects of cross-examination that dealt with the murder charge, had managed to resist being drawn into convoluted answers and stuck to his version.

“Nel didn’t succeed in showing there is this track record of improbabilities and lies (in Pistorius’s version),” she said.

But Grant said Pistorius seemed almost to disappear from the scene at the moments of action, and reappear only once the damage was done.

“The most glaring example is: ‘I was pointing my firearm at the door, the next thing I knew I had fired four shots’.”

Grant said there was a similar disappearing act around the Tashas shooting, where he couldn’t account for the moment the gun went off in his hand.

“It’s all becoming obvious that there is no willingness to take responsibility. It’s exceedingly damaging to a witness who won’t make obvious concessions.”

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