After a lot of internal debate and with conflicting emotions arising as details from the Oscar Pistorius case unfolds, Columinate decided to rather turn to the data. With the country intensely following what has been labelled the ‘trial of the century’ we thought, why not get on the bandwagon.
Every day after court proceedings adjourn, we send out a survey to our online panel and ask them whether they followed the trial today and if they think Oscar is guilty of premeditated murder (the most serious in his series of charges). The survey only stays open until the next morning and we invite new (but demographically similar) people to take part every day. The hypothesis? As new information emerges, people’s opinion on whether he is guilty might change. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but the collective public don’t necessarily always go by that creed as our data shows.
We started just after day 3, here is a quick recap on the main findings from each day:
Boxer Kevin Lerena talks about the incident at Tasha’s in Melrose Arch in 2012. He says that Oscar was very apologetic when he accidently fired his weapon at the restaurant.
Radiologist Dr Johan Stipp takes the stand, also a neighbour of Pistorius. Barry Roux says that Stipp could not have heard Reeva Steenkamp scream due to the serious head injury she suffered. Oscar becomes very emotional because of Dr Stipp’s testimony.
Samantha Taylor, ex-girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius, says he does not sound like a woman when he screams. She mentions that they broke up when Oscar cheated on her with Reeva.
Judge Thokozile Masipa banned live broadcasts of state pathologist Professor Gert Saayman’s testimony regarding Reeva’s injuries. Pistorius was retching throughout the testimony. Earlier, Silver Woods Estate security guard Pieter Baba also testified.
Witness, Darren Fresco, a friend of Pistorius admitted in court that he followed previous testimony of the trial on twitter. He was present at the shooting incident at Tasha’s in 2012. Often he was unable to remember details of the incident under cross examination from Barry Roux.
The processing of evidence by the SAPS came under scrutiny as forensic analyst Colonel Johannes Vermeulen admitted that new marks had appeared on Pistorius’ toilet door between the time the door was reassembled and when tests were conducted.
Former policeman Gilliam van Rensburg spent the afternoon taking prosecutor Gerrie Nel through pictures of the crime scene at Pistorius’ house. Colonel Schoombé Van Rensburg, the first policeman on the scene, also testified. He told the court of how he followed the blood trail that lead him to Steenkamp’s body.
Barry Roux questioned the reliability of the photos taken at the crime scene as certain items’ positions changed during the process of taking photos. Gilliam van Rensburg, who was testifying on the photos, has since resigned from the SAPS to coach sport.
Warrant Officer Barend van Staden explained to Barry Roux how he conducted a primer residue test to determine whether Oscar has fired a gun. Van Staden conducted the residue test on both of Oscar’s arms as well when he learned that the athlete washed his hands. He also testified that Oscar was very “quiet and emotional” when he conducted the test. Social media and news websites all agree that day 11 was uneventful as the rest of the day only consisted of analysing photos took by van Staden.
Steenkamp’s mother, June, was in tears because of police ballistics expert Captain Christian Mangema’s testimony. He testified that three of the four bullets fired hit Steenkamp, and that the trajectory of the bullets perforating the toiler door suggests that “the target is going to be somebody who is inside the toilet.”
Day 13 was very eventful and included ballistic evidence, blood splatter analysis and the web history of an iPad found at Oscar’s house. The state’s ballistic expert, Captain Christian Mangema, testified that it is very likely that Oscar was on his stumps when he fired four shots through the toilet door that killed Reeva Steenkamp. Blood splatter analyst Colonel Ian Van der Nest said that his findings of the splatter on the stairs are consistent with that of Oscar’s account of carrying Reeva Steenkamp’s body down the stairs. Colonel Mike Sales testified that the iPad only included a browser history for 13 February 2014, which included searches of cars as well as pornography.
Text messages between Oscar and Reeva were the main theme of the day, with emphasis placed on one particular message where Reeva said that she was scared of Oscar’s temper. Police cellphone analyst Captain Francois Moller read out numerous transcripts of exchanges between the couple, and also mentioned an incident where Reeva complained about tension between the couple when they were at a public event.
Colonel Johannes Vermeulen was called to the stand again to further testify on marks on the Oscar’s cricket bat. Gerrie Roux wrapped up the state’s with “If it pleases the court, My Lady, learned assessors, this is the State’s case.” Court has been adjourned until Friday 28 March to allow the defence to consult with the state witnesses who didn’t testify.