Pistorius murder trial: Prosecutor accuses athlete of using emotional outbursts to dodge questions

Pretoria: State prosecutor Gerrie Nel will focus his pinpoint cross-examination on incidents surrounding the death of Oscar Pistorius’ girlfriend in the toilet cubicle of his home last year, highlighting contradictions in the athlete’s evidence as he hones in on a murder conviction.

On Tuesday, Mr Pistorius entered his seventh day of evidence in his murder trial, accused of using emotional outbursts to avoid difficult questions, changing his defence and screaming at his girlfriend to “get the f--- out” of his home the night he shot and killed her.

Monday marked his fourth day of relentless cross-examination, chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel appearing to tie Mr Pistorius in knots as he continued to explore the fine details of his story, submitting to him that his version was so improbable that it was simply “not true".

Mr Nel sought an adjournment a few minutes before the usual 3pm time, saying he was about to commence a series of questions about “the toilet” and so wished to resume on Tuesday to avoid repetition.

Judge Thokozile Masipa granted the slightly early break, as speculation raged as to just how long Mr Nel would take in cross-examination.

In his most notable previous success, he kept an accused police chief on the stand for nearly nine days before securing a conviction.

In a bid to prove Mr Pistorius is lying about his version of what occurred in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year, Mr Nel on Monday alleged numerous inconsistencies in his account, highlighting that Mr Pistorius was a stickler for detail on some matters but had a blank memory on others.

Twice the court was adjourned to allow the athlete time to regain his composure, prompting an increasingly exasperated Mr Nel to suggest he was using tears to mask difficulties in answering questions and keeping his story straight.

After one exchange in which the athlete appeared to be on the verge of tears, Mr Nel asked why he was emotional when there had been no mention of Ms Steenkamp or, by inference, her horrific injuries: “Mr Pistorius, you’re not using your emotional state as an escape, are you?”

The Olympian said he was not – one of dozens of denials made during day 22 of the trial.

The morning’s first break in proceedings came after Mr Nel focused on the moments after the Olympian claims to have heard the window open in the bathroom that fateful morning.

He has previously told the court that as he grabbed his 9mm pistol from under his bed, he had told Steenkamp in a soft voice that she should “stay down and call the police”.

However moments later, on his version, as he went up the passageway towards the bathroom, he was yelling at her to call the police.

Mr Pistorius said he wanted to “chase” the intruders from his home.

Mr Nel asked what words he shouted, and Mr Pistorius tearfully told the court he was yelling: “Get the f--- out of my house! Get the f--- out of my house!”

The court quickly adjourned as the Olympian dissolved into sobs.

But there was no let-up from the prosecutor  when the court resumed.

“Why did you get emotional (just now?) Isn’t it exactly because that’s what you shouted at Reeva: ‘Get the f--- out of my house!’ That’s what you said, that’s why you got emotional, isn't it?” he asked.

“No, my lady,” Mr Pistorius replied.

“I don't understand why you would get emotional then - when you shouted it?” Mr Nel asked.

Mr Pistorius said he was “traumatised” by the event, and recalling what he felt on the night prompted his outburst.

As the court approached the lunch break, Mr Pistorius said he “pulled the trigger as I perceived danger to be coming towards me”.

Mr Nel jumped quickly: “So it was just lucky that the gun was pointed at the door?”

“Why would it be lucky? She lost her life," Mr Pistorius fired back emotionally.

Mr Nel commented “now you cry again” before noting it was time for the hour-long recess.

Legal experts said the prosecution had made significant headway on the question of “intent”, not helped by Mr Pistorius appearing to change his defence from one of self-defence, in which he genuinely believed he was acting lawfully, to another - that of “involuntary action”.

The latter is usually associated with occurrences like an epileptic fit.

Mr Pistorius denied it was his defence that he fired at an attacker, saying he just fired in response to a noise; there was no thought behind it.

He said: “I wasn’t aiming at the door . . . I was trying to make sense of it, my eyes were going between the window and the door. The firearm was up."

Mr Nel persisted: “Were you aiming?”

Mr Pistorius: The firearm was pointed at the door, my lady . . . I then discharged my firearm . . .  I didn’t want to shoot. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I was terrified.”

Mr Nel quickly replied: “So that is your new defence? Involuntary action? You can only have one defence, Mr Pistorius! And yours is changing too many times, and that's because you fired at Reeva!”

Mr Pistorius, almost screaming, said: “I did not fire at Reeva!”

The court was once more adjourned, but when they returned, Mr Nel accused Mr Pistorius of becoming emotional because he had got his defences mixed up.

Mr Nel later suggested that Mr Pistorius' claim that he wasn’t thinking was “a problem” for the defendant – because that would imply recklessness.

“One of the ways out was through the door, but you never gave them a chance,” Mr Nel said.

The trial continues.

The story Pistorius murder trial: Prosecutor accuses athlete of using emotional outbursts to dodge questions first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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