When forensic expert Roger Dixon was called by defense lawyer Barry Roux as a witness in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, he was announced with a kind of victorious pride. It was very clear and almost exaggerated that this witness absolutely has no objection to be filmed by TV cameras. One got the feeling that this will be the best witness yet and after his testimony the case may as well be closed and handed to the defense with a defeat to the state.
But Advocate Gerrie Nel, as the prosecutor, was obviously not reckoned with.
Roger Dixon, a geologist at the University of Pretoria and a former policeman with more than 18 years of experience to his name, was tagged unqualified to testify, early on in the line of questioning ‘fired’ by the prosecutor.
Defense dealt a blow when Forensic Expert got hammered
Mr Dixon was involuntary humbled. He had to admit in front of TV cameras from all over the world, as well as millions of South Africans following every word spoken in court, that indeed he did not have sufficient expertise in some areas in which he was testifying. These areas include ballistics, blood spatter, sound and visibility tests.
This, however, did not stop him from challenging the state’s ballistic expert, Captain Chris Mangena, in his claim that Ms. Steenkamp was first shot in the hip as she was facing the toilet door, then fell backwards and was shot in the arm and head as she tried to protect herself from the raining bullets.
Roger Dixon was of the opinion that Reeva was about to open the door when four shots in quick succession struck her. He also testified that the instrument he used to help him ascertain complete darkness in Oscar’s room at the time of the incident, was his eyes. It was at this time that Mr Nel helped him along to concede non-qualification in ballistics or pathology and that he has no affiliation to a forensic body.
Mr. Nel has requested several reports from this witness to be brought to the next session of court. An interesting day is sure to follow as the case continues.
Will the Defense be able to produce (belatedly) a Forensic Expert that can actually be called an expert?
Gerrie Nel is a South African State Prosecutor and Advocate for The National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa. He has served as a former head of the Directorate of Special Operations, also known as the Scorpions, in Gauteng. Nel successfully prosecuted former police commissioner Jackie Selebi, who was found guilty of corruption and handed a 15-year prison sentence.
Advocate | The National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa
Law Practice and Legal Services
Head | Directorate of Special Operations 2008
Government, Public Administration and Defence
Society of State Advocates’ Prosecutor of the Year | 2012 for his work on the Jackie Selebi case
International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) Special Achievement Award | 2012 for his work on the Jackie Selebi case
Opinions of Gerrie Nel’s conduct in court
Advocate Gerrie Nel is perceived in various ways for his questioning of the alleged murderer of Reeva Steenkamp, Oscar Pistorius the para-limpic blade-runner.
Here are some twitter remarks:
• Fascinating cross-examination
• Advocate Gerrie Nell is tearing Oscar Pistorius apart and he is excellently good at it.
• the “pitbull” Gerrie Nel
• At his fierce style the Athlete has broken down
• In the legal fraternity Gerrie Nel has a fearsome reputation, cemented (though established) well before he shredded former police commissioner Jackie Selebi in the witness box.
• Gerrie Nel could get Shrien Dewani to admit to killing Reeva.
• Gerrie Nel took his bitchslap pills this morning.
• He is not going to be nice. Known as a Rottweiler.
• Cross-examination by determined and well-prepared prosecutor Gerrie Nel.
• Gerrie Nel in full flight already, going for the jugular. Tone is harsh and abrasive. Oscar is already struggling….
• Gerrie Nel is going to bulldoze Oscar and it’s going to be heart wrenching….
• If anyone thought Barry Roux was aggressive in cross-examination, he was nothing compared to Gerrie Nel when he gets going.
Some of Nel’s comments that will be well remembered
• “You made a mistake? You killed a person. You killed Reeva Steenkamp. Say it.”
• He asked the athlete to “take responsibility” for killing her. “It’s time that you look at it,” chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel said, setting the stage for a rigorous first day of cross-examination.
• Prosecutor Gerrie Nel told Oscar Pistorius “I’m not going away” as he picked through the disabled runner’s evidence and accused him of lying.
• ‘Then say it then, say yes. I shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp’
• When a police photograph of a dead Reeva Steenkamp’s bloodied head was displayed in court, Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said Steenkamp’s head “exploded” when it was struck by one of four hollow-point bullets
• ‘You killed her. Say it.’
• ‘You just can’t take responsibility for anything, can you?’
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After Day 8 of the Oscar Pistorius Trial, a few very important questions and vital issues come to mind and tend to linger. These issues include Oscar’s cricket bat and whether he hit the bathroom door with or without wearing his prosthetic legs. An accurate replica (allegedly the original) of the door was brought into court for a physical demonstration regarding the marks on the original door in an attempt to clarify the situation concerning discrepancies pertaining to the testimony of Pistorius and forensic evidence.
Oscar stated in his affidavit that he hit the door with his artificial legs on. Prosecution (Gerrie Nel), states that detail (forensic evidence) as regards the marks on the door is consistent with somebody hitting the door at a lower height – they therefore want to prove that Oscar’s version of the events is not entirely truthful. The mission of Oscar’s defense is to prove that it is/was not possible for him to hit the door hard enough to damage it with a bat when he was not wearing his prosthetic legs.
Keep in mind that Pistorius was in peak physical condition at the time when Reeva Steenkamp was tragically killed in the early morning hours of Valentine’s Day 2013. As all professional athletes, Oscar has strong, finely tuned and developed abdominal, gluteus maximus (buttocks) and thigh muscles. When walking without his prosthetic legs, these muscle groups in particular, should aid him in keeping his balance. It may therefore be safe to assume that Oscar would be better equipped to balance himself on his stumps than for instance, a middle-aged, mildly overweight man trying to balance himself for the first time on his knees with his feet lifted up.
Barry Roux, the lawyer for the defense, requested Lieutenant Colonel Johannes Vermeulen, a senior officer at the forensic science laboratory, to stand on his knees and to hit the door with the famed cricket bat. Vermeulen complied, whereafter Roux asked Vermeulen to lift his feet. Vermeulen told the court that he had difficulty in keeping his balance. Pistorius kept his head down during the entire procedure and appeared to be busy making notes.
Still, whatever the circumstances – Oscar may not not have experienced the same difficulty as Vermeulen under similar circumstances. He may have had it easier. Another vitally important point to consider is that Pistorius has had his entire life to master balancing and walking on his stumps.
Vermeulen is clearly not in the same toned physical condition as Oscar Pistorius. However, Lt Col Vermeulen has more than 29 years experience regarding scientific analysis, having completed about 1400 forensic investigations in this period of time. He handled his testimony well and did not appear too frazzled by Barry Roux, or Blerry Rude, as the defense lawyer is now nicknamed across the internet.
Oscar Pistorius Affidavit
Another confusing issue is the fact that Pistorius stated in his affidavit that: “I woke up, went onto the balcony to bring the fan in and closed the sliding doors, the blinds and curtains.”
Would all the noise in the quiet of night not have awoken Reeva and caused her to say something or ask him what he was doing? The tall fan should have made a noise on the balcony tiles as he dragged it in. If he did not drag the fan, but carried it – he clearly has no problem with balancing on his stumps.
At that stage, before the curtains were closed, it would not have been pitch dark inside the room and he could have noticed that Reeva was not in the bed, couldn’t he?
Pistorius further states: “I grabbed my 9mm pistol from underneath my bed. On my way to the bathroom I screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in bed.”
Why did he not listen for her reply? Why did he not listen for any sound from her? If he was genuinely concerned for her safety, would he not first have woken her and told her to leave the room?
Fact to ponder 1:
If he screamed before he fired the shots, would Reeva not have screamed herself, or would she not at least have made a sound?
Fact to ponder 2:
Oscar also states in his affidavit: “I went back into the bedroom and grabbed my cricket bat to bash open the toilet door. A panel or panels broke off and I found the key on the floor and unlocked and opened the door.”
Why did Reeva lock the toilet door from the inside? Was she scared? Did she want to punish Oscar after a fight? Who on earth locks the toilet door in the middle of the night – especially if your partner is fast asleep?
Fact to ponder 3:
Is it just me, but why was the cricket bat in the bedroom? Why wasn’t it kept with his other sporting paraphernalia, memorabilia and stuff?
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