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Oscar Pistorius faces harsh cross-examination at murder trial

Apr 9, 2014, 11:07 AM EDT

Oscar Pistorius AP

Oscar Pistorius was told to look at a graphic photo of dead girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp‘s head and to “take responsibility for what you’ve done” by a prosecutor at his murder trial Wednesday.

A crime scene photo of one side of Steenkamp’s head, bloodied from a bullet wound, was displayed on screens around the room, and shown on video streams on the first day of his cross-examination.

It came after prosecutor Gerrie Nel showed a clip of this video news report of Pistorius at a gun shooting range, firing at a watermelon that exploded on impact.

“You know that the same happened to Reeva’s head,” Nel said just before the photo of Steenkamp came on the screens. “It exploded. Have a look. I’m going to show you, Mr. Pistorius, it had the exact same effect, the bullet that went into her head.”

Pistorius, the first double amputee to run in the Olympics in 2012, said he thought Steenkamp was an intruder locked in his bathroom when he shot four times through a locked door, hitting and killing her inside on Valentine’s Day 2013. The prosecution claims Pistorius killed Steenkamp after an argument.

He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder. If not found guilty of premeditated murder, he could be convicted of culpable homicide, South Africa’s version of manslaughter for negligent killing.

Graphic photos of Steenkamp had been shown during the trial on previous days, accidentally while scanning through slideshows and only for brief seconds. The photo was up for about one minute Wednesday.

“Have a look there,” Nel said to Pistorius. “I know you don’t want to because you don’t want to take responsibility, but it’s time that you look at it. Take responsibility for what you’ve done, Mr. Pistorius.”

Pistorius, who had thrown up during graphic autopsy testimony March 10, had a green bucket nearby in the witness box Wednesday. Pistorius tried not to look at the photo next to his face, according to court reports. He responded emotionally.

“I’ve taken responsibility … waiting for my time on this stand to tell my story for the respect of Reeva and for myself,” Pistorius said, his voice trembling. “I’ve taken responsibility. But I will not look at a picture where I’m tormented by what I saw and felt that night. As I picked Reeva up, my fingers touched her head. I remember. I don’t have to look at a picture. I was there.”

Pistorius sobbed and buried his head in his hands, causing Nel to ask for an adjournment.

Earlier, Nel aggressively began his cross-examination by telling Pistorius, “Say yes, I shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp.”

“I did,” Pistorius said, repeating that he “made a mistake” and adding, “I’m human. I make many faults. I have sins.”

Later, Nel questioned Pistorius about crime scene details and accused him of lying in his version of events and having rehearsed answers.

“My memory isn’t very good at the moment,” Pistorius said. “I’m under a lot of pressure sitting here. It’s not easy. I’m defending for my life.”

Pistorius repeatedly said that the shooting was an accident.

“Before thinking, out of fear, I fired four shots,” he said. “When I realized the scale of what was happening, I stopped firing, and I stood there, and I was in shock.

“I didn’t intend to shoot anyone. I fired my firearm before I could think, before I even had a moment to comprehend what was happening. I believed someone was coming out the toilet.”

Here’s NBC News’ full coverage of the trial.

The trial is scheduled to resume at 3:30 a.m. ET on Thursday with more cross-examining from Nel

“I’m not going to go away,” Nel told Pistorius shortly before the end of Wednesday’s proceedings.

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  1. qball59 - Apr 9, 2014 at 5:32 PM

    What kind of cross-examination was this @sshat prosecutor conducting? How about actually ASKING A QUESTION designed to OBTAIN INFORMATION, as opposed to telling the defendant to look at a picture substantiating facts to which he, the defendant, has already stipulated? And why wasn’t Pistorious’ own lawyer objecting to the prosecutor’s grandstanding?

  2. balfe13 - Apr 10, 2014 at 3:13 AM

    South American courts clearly have their own rules, because yes, in America, this is basically the definition of badgering the witness and “testifying” by the cross examining attorney, both of which are sustainable objections which would get the testimony stricken from the record and the prosecutor warned. Really, in America, this would probably get a prosecutor sanctioned by the State Bar. Here, the police just do this before the defense attorney shows up.

  3. mogogo1 - Apr 10, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    Like the other posters, I’ve found it hard to understand how a trial without a jury ends up focusing on his emotions and all sorts of other intangibles. At the end of the day, the prosecution has an extremely strong case and them centering questions on that would benefit them. And his breaking down and crying every few minutes isn’t going to explain away the numerous holes in his story. If I was the prosecutor I’d let him cry all day while just calmly peppering him with questions for which he has no good answers.

    • flora63 - Apr 10, 2014 at 9:57 PM

      Nel is right, as far as Oscar is concerned it’s all about Oscar, no one else. It takes some nerve to stand up in court and proclaim, “I’ve taken responsibility … waiting for my time on this stand to tell my story for the RESPECT of Reeva and for myself”. This poor girl was hardly cold in her grave before he got himself another girlfriend which shows the level of respect he has for Reeva, with even less for himself.

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