Prosecutors hammer home the case against Oscar Pistorius: ‘All these lies caught up to him’

This post has been updated.

After more than 40 days of proceedings, the dramatic Oscar Pistorius murder trial has come down to which version of the Paralympic gold medalist will be believed: The loving boyfriend who was anguished by his girlfriend’s gruesome death, or the premeditated murderer that prosecutors have painted him as.

Prosecutors presented their closing arguments Thursday  in the trial of Pistorius, who, they insisted, is an unreliable witness who “pre-planned” the murder of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The decision will rest with a single judge, who is expected to issue a verdict in the coming weeks. It closes a dramatic trial in which Pistorius has vomited, retched, wept and screamed with the world watching.

After all that, the debate has boomeranged back to where it began: with Gerrie Nel, a bespectacled and irascible prosecutor known as the “bulldog.”

On Thursday morning, he came out snarling:

“There was no robber.”

“She did not open the window.”

“There was no sound of a magazine rack moving.”

“It is a figment of the accused’s imagination.”

During Nel’s closing arguments, he closed in on what he called inconsistencies in Pistorius’s testimony, castigating the runner as both “vague” and “argumentative. … His mendacity was striking. … He was more concerned with defending for his life than entrusting the court with a truthful account of that morning.”

In Pistorius’s defense, Barry Roux zeroed in on inconsistencies in the timeline of events presented by the state.

He accused the prosecution of avoiding “serious, material, objective” facts when presenting a timeline of events, mistakes that if presented to the court, Roux insisted, would “cause a nose dive of their case.”

Roux was granted only about 30 minutes to present the beginning of his closing arguments, and he will continue Friday.

But throughout several hours of presentation, the state made the case that Pistorius acted intentionally and out of anger.

They painted a picture of a relationship between Pistorius and Steenkamp that was on the rocks.

Nel presented evidence of WhatsApp messages between the two that belied trouble just days before, “relationship ended in death.”

He called Pistorius’s version of events a “farce.” Pistorius maintained that he and Steenkamp, his girlfriend of four months, had a quiet evening on the night of her death and then went to bed.

He claimed a noise jarred him awake and, feeling vulnerable without his prosthetic legs, he hobbled to the bathroom door, where he believed an intruder was lurking. He said he bellowed for the intruder to show himself and then let loose with his pistol, shooting through the doorway and killing Steenkamp, who was inside.

Nel attacked Pistorius, saying he had been an “appalling witness” during several days of testimony when the runner stuttered and squirmed on the stand. “The accused’s evidence is completely devoid of truth,” the prosecutor added. “He always places the blame for his actions somewhere else.”

He focused on whether Pistorius’s screams truly sounded like a woman’s. A key question in the Pistorius trial was whether Steenkamp shouted before she was killed. Pistorius claimed she didn’t say anything before he fired the pistol — and he had no way of knowing she was behind the door. Neighbors, however, testified that they heard a woman’s screams before gunshots.

Pistorius’s response: He had screamed. His defense team at the beginning of trial said it would prove the Olympian “screams like a woman.” Nel said they never did.

He hammered Pistorius on his claims that he has anxiety, a matter that sucked up weeks of trial. Nel accused the runner of having “anxiety on call,” according to the Mirror’s live feed.

Roux countered that the change in Pistorius’s anxiety level that night was directly related to his fear of an intruder in the home.

“When you consider anxiety and vulnerability, you must consider it in the context of danger or perceived danger. It won’t manifest just in the normal walk of life,” Roux said.

Pistorius claimed he fired in self-defense, but Nel disputed that. He said there was never any “imminent attack” on Pistorius: “Even in his own version, he stood in front of the door … and fired shots with intention to kill,” the Mirror reported he said. “The intention was to shoot a person in that bathroom.”

Nel said this was one of the many inconsistencies in Pistorius’s story: “All these lies caught up to him … so many lies in such a short period that the snowball effect became so evident. You tell one lie, and you have to continuously build on it and build on it and it becomes ridiculous.”

For the first time, the proceeding was attended by both Pistorius’s father and Steenkamp’s father. Pistorius sat stone-faced throughout the arguments as his fate hung in the balance.

Terrence McCoy is a foreign affairs writer at the Washington Post. He served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Cambodia and studied international politics at Columbia University. Follow him on Twitter here.
Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip
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