The Oscar Pistorius trial continues, with prosecutors abandoning a crucial cornerstone of their case as they attempt to prove that the murder of Reeva Steenkamp was premeditated. Forensic analysis has revealed information that simultaneously helps and hinders both sides.
Prosecutors had been attempting to demonstrate that Pistorius was using his prosthetic legs when the shooting occurred, which would have changed the trajectory of the bullets and indicated that Pistorius was not feeling vulnerable to the threat of intruders, as the athlete's defense team has argued. The prosecution also suggested that taking the time to put on his prosthetic legs meant that Pistorius shot Steenkamp with intent, rather than by accident.
However, Colonel Johannes G. Vermeulen, a forensic analyst, testified on Wednesday that Pistorius likely opened fire while on his stumps. Vermeulen arrived at the conclusion after observing the location of bullet holes that pierced the bathroom door before hitting Steenkamp. Vermeulen similarly advised that the bullets appeared to have been shot before Pistorius took a cricket bat to the door, again falling in line with Pistorius' version of events. "The marks on the door are actually consistent with him not having his legs on and I suspect they must be similar to the height that he was when he fired the shots," said Vermeulen. Prosecutors combated this idea, suggesting that Pistorius first threatened Steenkamp with the cricket bat before using the gun.
However, some crucial factors are yet to be aligned with Pistorius' account of the event. Pistorius has claimed to have put his prosthetic legs on before beating down the door with a cricket bat, though Vermeulen's analysis suggests that he remained on his stumps while using the bat. The discrepancy suggests two significant possibilities: either, Pistorius is lying, or Vermeulen and the state had mishandled evidence. Barry Roux, Pistorius' main defense lawyer, remains adamant that police contaminated the crime scene, noting the presence of foreign foot prints in police photos.
Nevertheless, following Vermeulen's testimony, lead prosecutor Gerrie Nel advised that the state was no longer pursuing the line of inquiry around prosthetic legs. The move comes two days after Pistorius vomited in court as prosecutors described the extent of Steenkamp's injuries. Live television cameras were turned off at the time out of respect to Steenkamp's family.
The trial began last week, and is expected to continue until March 20.