Johannesburg - Could Barry Roux convince you Oscar Pistorius is a paranoid man who made a mistake that night? Could Gerrie Nel twist your mind to thinking Pistorius did it in cold blood? Or is your mind made up?
The closing arguments in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial are the most pivotal days of the trial, capable of changing the verdict. “It’s all about how persuasively either side is argued,” said Kelly Phelps, senior lecturer at the Department of Public Law at UCT.
Phelps said the closing arguments were both parties’ final opportunity to paint a strong narrative of their version for the judge. She said this was particularly important in cases such as this which were based on circumstantial evidence, as opposed to direct physical evidence that conclusively proved one side right or wrong.
“(Judge Masipa) would have obviously gotten a perception thus far and it certainly leads towards one side, I would say,” said Ulrich Roux, director at BDK attorneys.
He said the arguments would be technical and not a chance to show off.
“You don’t want to cloud the record with all kinds of theatrical things. It won’t be in your client’s favour,” said Ulrich.
Ulrich said he thought Roux wouldn’t try to discredit the State’s case, but rather focus on the why Pistorius’s version was reasonable and put what happened that night in the context of Pistorius’s life story.
“Certainly Gerrie will argue that (Pistorius’s) testimony cannot be believed and cannot reasonably possibly be seen to be true,” said Ulrich.
“The phone records and the resultant timeline that is drawn from those records are likely to play a very prominent part in tying together the narrative,” said Phelps.
She said it was important for both legal teams to properly refer to any nuances or contradictions of law they wanted the judge to consider, otherwise she would be under no obligation to do so.
One of the interesting points of law will be around the culpable homicide charge, where Judge Thokozile Masipa may have to break new ground. For prosecution it must be proved that a reasonable man in the position of the accused would have foreseen that death could result from his actions.
But what about the reasonable amputee? The defence has submitted evidence that pointed towards Pistorius needing to be judged by different standards of reasonability, because of his severe disability.