Oscar Pistorius May Have Stumbled With His Testimony, Experts Say

Defense lawyers say prosecutors highlighted discrepancies in Pistorius' story.

ByABC News
April 15, 2014, 12:14 PM

PRETORIA, South Africa April 1,5 2014— -- Oscar Pistorius' testimony may have tripped up his defense, legal experts told ABC News today after the Blade Runner finished seven days on the witness stand, including five rough days of cross examination.

Several defense lawyers said that all of Pistorius' tears and emotional breakdowns on the stand will not overcome doubts in his story raised by prosecutor Gerrie Nel.

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Pistorius, 27, is accused of killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, 29, in the early hours of Valentine's Day 2013. He pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder and three other gun related charges. In his plea explanation he said he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder.

"His demeanor and antics .. did him more harm than good," said attorney Anton Smith. "It seemed at stages, as Nel stated, that Oscar Pistorius might have tailored his evidence during cross-examination. Also, during cross by Nel, a lot of questions were either left unanswered or evaded by Pistorius."

Lawyer Henk Louw agreed that Pistorius' demeanor and the discrepancies between his testimony in recent days and his bail application affidavit last year and his plea explanation at the start of the trial could count against him as "these factors all contribute to a credibility finding. The credibility of a witness, together with the evidence before the court, all play a role when the judge comes to a conclusion."

Among the discrepancies, Pistorius told the court that Steenkamp was awake moments before the shooting. That information was not mentioned in a statement by the athlete during his bail application last year.

During his testimony, Pistorius provided further details on the sounds he heard in the minutes leading up to the deadly shooting, like the window sliding open and the bathroom door slamming shut. These were also not in his bail application affidavit.

In describing what happened after he allegedly heard the window slide open, he said he grabbed his firearm from under the bed, whispered to Steenkamp to call the police and then went down a hallway towards the perceived threat. The information that he whispered to Steenkamp to call the police was also not included in the athlete's statement last year.

In describing how he frantically broke down the door and sat over his girlfriend, he testified that he realized she wasn't breathing. In his bail application, Pistorius said when he bashed open the door. he found Steenkamp slumped over, but still alive.

Gideon Scheepers, a defense lawyer, also said that Pistorius' description of being overcome with fear and firing the weapon by accident also presents a problem for his defense team.

"The fact that Pistorius changed his version from putative self defense, based on the fear that his life was threatened by an intruder, to involuntary action basically leaves his defense team with the task to explain the discrepancy between the version pleaded and put to the witnesses, and the new version advanced under cross examination." Scheepers said.