Police Blunders, Inconsistent Testimony Could Help Pistorius's Case for Bail
On Wednesday, the lead police detective that testified for the prosecution in Oscar Pistorius's bail hearing in Pretoria, South Africa gave inconsistent - and confusing - testimony that may convince the South African judge presiding over the case to allow Pistorius to be released on bail until his trial begins.
That decision will most likely be made after closing arguments on Thursday.
Pistorius has been charged with a "Schedule 6" premeditated murder offense, which means the burden of proof is on Pistorius's defense team to show exceptional circumstances as to why the double below-the-knees amputee and Olympian who has been accused of murdering his girlfriend on Valentine's Day should not be held in jail until the trial begins.
Police detective Hilton Botha claimed, at the hearing, that police had removed boxes of testosterone from Pistorius's home. But later in the day, in a bizarre turn of events, South African's national prosecutor said the substance was still undergoing laboratory tests.
Medupe Simasiku, the spokesman for South Africa's National Prosecution Agency, told the Associated Press "that it was too early to identify the substance as it was still undergoing laboratory tests." Pistorius's team insists the substance was an "herbal remedy."
Second, Botha described what may have been a shoddy investigation of the crime scene that could have tainted evidence at the scene of the killing.
According to Sky News, Botha said he arrived on the scene an hour after the shooting and "admitted that he walked through the crime scene without foot covers, possibly contaminating it."
"You were in the house walking with unprotected shoes," Roux, Pristorius's defense attorney, said. "That should not happen."
Botha also acknowledged that police left bullets from the crime scene in the bathroom, and Pistorius's team alleged the detectives were cherry-picking evidence at the scene to make Pistorius look bad. The lead detective conceded that police "left a 9 mm slug from the barrage that killed Reeva Steenkamp inside a toilet and lost track of illegal ammunition found inside the house." Authorities, Pistorius's defense attorney asserted, were selectively taking "every piece of evidence to try to extract the most possibly negative connotation and present it to the court."
Third, Botha said Steenkamp's body did not show "any pattern of defensive wounds" or "bruising from an assault."
Botha then confusingly said he did not find anything inconsistent with Pistorius's affidavit while also acknowledging that nothing "contradicted the police version either."
Fourth, Botha's testimony about witnesses that heard gunshots was also inconsistent with previous assertions. The witness in question, according to Botha, may have heard noises from about 600 yards away from Pistorius's home, a greater distance than initial estimates.
Botha, though, offered testimony that hurt Pistorius as well. He said Pistorius was once involved in a shooting and at a restaurant and asked someone to "take the wrap." Further, Botha said ballistic evidence would show that the bullets that killed Steenkamp were fired from a height that would support the prosecution's
"assertion that Pistorius was wearing prosthetic legs when he took aim at the bathroom door."
Pistorius, in his affidavit, alleged he mistakenly shot Steenkamp on his stumps. Whether evidence supports the prosecution's belief that Pistorius put on his carbon fiber prosthetic legs before shooting Steenkamp may determine Pistorius's fate at trial. For the purposes of bail, there may have been enough doubt and inconsistencies for the judge to consider granting Pistorius bail on Thursday.