Oscar Trial – Day 7, March 11 – Med Examiner SAAYMAN, FRESCO

Dr. Saayman, the Medical Examiner, is back on the stand.

The Judge starts the day by announcing that live tweets are now allowed. They are still going to black out the video and audio testimony, but journalists inside the court can live tweet.

Roux is setting up a defense that Oscar shot Reeva in quick succession rendering her unable to scream out before the head shot left her incapacitated. This would explain why according to Oscar’s version of the story, Reeva never made any noise at all that night.

However Saayman does not think this is possible. The following are points from his testimony that have been compiled from various reporters in the courtroom:

In the immediate seconds after being shot, mental incapacitation would be minimal, that comes later. The shot to the brain however would cause immediate incapacitation.

Screaming is still possible even after cognitive dysfunction, it would be normal.
By cognitive dysfunction, I refer to higher mental capacity. Screaming is not higher mental capacity.

If someone knows their life is in danger, the stress response, or fight or flight, starts to kick in. In a scenario like this, before somebody is about to sustain a gunshot wound, adrenaline and other kinds of hormones would kick in.

Saayman: “I think it would be abnormal if one did not scream after sustaining an injury of this nature.”

Another item that was hotly discussed prior to trial is whether or not Reeva had urine in her bladder when examined. The defense theory is that if the bladder is empty, she was just using the bathroom to relieve herself that night.

There was a small amount of urine found in her bladder.
It was murky, which is a result of cells becoming loose from the bladder.

Even if Reeva had urinated an hour before her death, her bladder could still have been empty. Many factors contribute to this including how well hydrated the person was.

As for stomach contents, her last meal consisted of vegetables and a small amount of white substance that looked like cheese.

Most meals will be digested in four hours. (1-3 hours for small/average meal, 3-5 for medium meal, 5-8 for large meal, according to medical journals.)

Based on what was found in her stomach and quantity, doctor estimates that she ate approximately 2 hours prior to death. Her death was estimated around 3:15am-3:20am. Therefore, she would have likely eaten after midnight. Oscar claims in his statement that they went to sleep at 10pm.

The defense argument from Roux is that this is an imperfect science. There is no definitive way to say for sure. Dr. Saayman states that although he is not an expert in the digestion field, he has done 10-15,000 autopsies and has read numerous medical journals on this subject. Clearly he has the experience to accurately approximate these details.

The doctor’s testimony today appeared to be strong for the Prosecution. They were able to establish that screaming from Reeva was possible during the shots, Reeva may have urinated up to one hour before death (not immediately before death), and that she ate 2 hours before death (meaning she may not have gone to bed at 10pm as Oscar states).

Dr. Saayman is excused.

The next witness is Darren Fresco.
Darren is the friend who was with Oscar when his gun accidentally went off in Tashas Restaurant and when Oscar allegedly shot his gun out of the car sunroof.

The Judge addresses Darren and warns him that he only gets immunity if he does not lie to the court. Darren does not face any serious charges, just a charge of not reporting the incidents with the firearms. But if he honestly testifies today, he can avoid any trouble.

Darren and Oscar were friends and have known each other for seven years. He knows Samantha Taylor, Oscar’s ex-girlfriend, through Oscar.

Nel inquires about the incident that happened after the Vaal River trip when he, Oscar and Samantha were in the car together. Darren states he was pulled over for speeding by metro police. He was asked to step out of the vehicle. While Darren was talking to police, Oscar decides to exit the vehicle to inquire about what is taking so long. Samantha is in the back seat.

Meanwhile, another metro police officer drives up, looks into the car and picks up Oscar’s gun which was on the seat. Oscar then has a verbal altercation with the officer. Oscar tells the officer that you can’t touch another man’s gun. The original officer attempts to diffuse the situation.

The officer had cleared the chamber of the gun and the bullets fell out in to the car.

Oscar is still arguing with the officer and tells the officer that his fingerprints are now on the gun and he will be liable for whatever happens with it.

The officers ask for Oscar’s drivers license. Darrin goes around to the other side of the car, scratches around in the back seat, finds the bullet and gives it back to Oscar.
Darren assumes that Oscar puts the bullet back in the gun, although he does not see him do it.

More officers now arrive on the scene. They had been chasing Darren since the toll plaza. Darren is issued with a speeding ticket and they leave. I have to wonder, how did they not get in trouble, or even arrested, for their behavior? I somehow get the feeling that we are not hearing the entire story on this. It will be interesting to see if the officers who wrote the ticket will testify about the incident.

Darren states that Oscar was furious that the officer had touched his gun.

They proceed to a house per Oscar’s request so they can handle some matter with a firearm, something about paperwork or license. He’s not sure exactly what Oscar needed to do there nor did he know the people who owned the house. After they are done there, something happens on the next part of the drive.

Without warning, Oscar fires his gun thru the sunroof, just a whisker from Darren’s left ear. (Darren is driving, the steering wheel is on the right side of the car.) Instinctively he pulls his body to the right and ducks down. It happened very rapidly and without warning.

Darren apologizes in advance to the Judge for his language and states that he yelled at Oscar “are you fucking mad?”

Darren states it felt like his ear was bleeding. He had a constant ringing in his ear. Oscar just laughed about what had happened. Afterwards they just kept driving but they didn’t discuss it. This seems highly odd to me. How could they not discuss that?

Darren confirms the location that this happened on an aerial photo. And then on to the next gun incident.

Darren states that he, Oscar, Kevin Lerena and Martin Rooney all go out to lunch at Tashas Restaurant on a Friday afternoon in January 2013. He is shown a photo and establishes where everybody was seated at the table. Oscar and Martin are on one side of the booth and Kevin and Darren are on the other side. Oscar is sitting diagonal from Darren.

Oscar asks Darren to pass him his firearm. It is a Glock 27, 40 caliber. Darren doesn’t know why he asked to see it. Darren takes the gun out from its carrying position, leans forward to get closer to Oscar and then hands him the gun under the table. Knowing that Oscar was competent with guns, he simply says “it’s one up”, meaning that there is one bullet in the chamber.

Darren had been to the shooting range with Oscar and knew that he had a “deep love” for guns (quote from Darren). So he reiterates that he did not question his competency.

At that point, he saw a shoulder movement from Oscar that he thought was taking the bullet out of the chamber. He could not see what Oscar was doing under the table, but that’s what he assumed he was doing at the time.

Instantly, the gun goes off and the deepest silence ensues after this very loud sound. No one knew where the bullet went. They were all frightened out of their minds. They decide to just carry on like nothing has happened, hoping that people will think it’s something else like a gas explosion. My own interjection here, these guys sound like a bunch of totally immature and reckless idiots!

Oscar then passes the weapon back to Darren and instantly asks Darren to take the rap for it since he has too much media attention around him. Darren says he will, being a friend.

The owner’s wife storms up and asks what happened. Darren tells her he made a mistake and apologizes. Says his gun fell out of his shorts. He says the same thing to the male owner when he comes to the table.

The stories from Kevin Lerena and Darren largely match each other. They are inconsistent on who came over to the table first, the husband owner or the wife owner. Also, Darren never mentions anything about Oscar apologizing to all of the guys at the table, asking them if they were all ok. According to Darren, Oscar gives no explanation at all. Other than that, the majority of the story matches Kevin Lerena’s account.

Shrapnel hit Kevin Lerena either on the foot or the shin, he wasn’t sure exactly where, and there were a few drops of blood that he could see. Darren told him to keep his foot down and not draw attention to it.

Darren states that he is the one who offered to pay for the damage that was caused by the bullet (not Oscar).

Roux now cross-examines.

They discuss that Darrin had sought legal advice over this situation. Darren admits he did not want to get in trouble so he had a lawyer help him with his statement, knowing that it would be used against Oscar in his trial.

According to Darren, Oscar did say “I’m sorry” on the way out of the restaurant but didn’t say anything else to the owners.

Roux is making a big deal over who came to the table first, the husband or the wife, to show that Darren’s story is not accurate but it’s somewhat of an irrelevant point. Darren is sticking to his version.

Roux now wants Darren to consider that Oscar may not have heard Darren tell him it was one up. Darren doubts this. He acknowledges that it was a noisy restaurant but he also heard Oscar say “ok” in response. Interestingly enough, Kevin Lerena heard him say “one up”, so why wouldn’t Oscar hear him?

Back to the Vaal River trip. Darren explains that they were actually stopped on two occasions that day. The first time was for some time of number/tag violation after they left the river. He did get a ticket for this incident as well and the fine has been paid by the dealership.

Roux wants to know why the dealership is paying these fines for him and Darren can’t answer his question. Upon prompting, Darren states that Justin Devaris is the owner of the dealership. (Justin is one of Oscar and Darren’s buddies. And I too wonder why Darren would give him the tickets to pay?) Roux then insinuates that these fines actually have not been paid and the topic is dropped. It doesn’t really have much relevance but it does dig in to Darren’s credibility.

Roux asks Darren if he was doing 250kph that day? (which is roughly 150mph on an American speedometer.) Darren says he can’t remember. Roux then says, so you can’t deny it? And Darren says how can I deny it if I can’t remember? Then Roux counters back, surely you would remember if you were doing 150mph. Darren again says he can’t remember. It’s very obvious here (at least to me) that he’s not being truthful about that. Best way to get out of something in court is to just say you don’t remember.

At Roux’s request, Darren then clarifies that the sunroof gun shooting incident happened after the 2nd time that they were stopped, which was much later in their ride home, after they had stopped at that house to get Oscar’s gun papers.

They went to the Gourmet Garage for dinner afterwards. Oscar discussed golf with two elderly people in the restaurant. Then they left in the same car they arrived in. Darren doesn’t remember anything else after this. This is important to Roux because early the next day, Oscar was in Scotland playing golf. The fact that both Samantha Taylor and Darren can’t fully remember what happened later that night is raised as a red flag to this incident. Why can’t anybody remember what they did that night after dinner? It is an interesting point.

Roux points out the discrepancies between he and Samantha’s testimony: Samantha did not mention that they were stopped twice, she said Oscar was told to get out of the vehicle by the officers (not that he got out on his own), she claimed that Oscar said he was going to shoot a robot and both he and Darren laughed and that the shot happened shortly after they were stopped (not after they went to the house about the gun papers.) Darren doesn’t recall the incident this way.

Roux tells Darren that Oscar denies he fired a shot and Darren tells the Judge that is incorrect.

Overall, the Defense did well with this witness. Roux drew out a lot of inconsistencies and Darren came across pretty smug. It’s hard to tell if the inconsistencies are because he has a bone to pick with Oscar (whom he is no longer friends with), or if because Samantha is lying (she also has a bone to pick), or if he is trying to save his own backside from some of the stupid things that they have all done together. My take is that these gun incidents did probably happen but elements of them are either being embellished or suppressed because they all acted foolishly and don’t want to get in trouble or make themselves look bad.

This witness doesn’t have a direct effect on the premeditated murder charge, only the other gun related charges which he is accused of.

Court is adjourned for the day.

Oscar Trial – Day 6, March 10 BABA, Medical Examiner SAAYMAN

Pieter Baba, security leader, is back on the stand.

Pieter Baba

Roux brings out the phone records and gives copies to the court. The phone numbers are not read in court for privacy purposes.

The following are calls to the security land line on February 14, 2013:

Dr. Stipp was the first to call security.
His call went through at 3:15:51am. He reported hearing gunshots. Call lasted 16 seconds.

Mr. Nhlengethwa is the second to call security
His call was first attempted at 3:16:16am with no answer
His call went through at 3:16:36am. He reported shots heard.

The following are calls to the security cell phone number on February 14, 2013:

3:21:33am – Oscar calls Baba from one of his cell phones. Call lasted 9 seconds. Oscar was only crying, didn’t speak during this call.

3:22:05am – Baba’s call to Oscar where Oscar states “everything is fine”. The length of this phone call is not read by Roux.

According to Baba: “My Lady, I called Oscar first and Mr. Pistorious told me everything was fine, and before I could speak, the line went dead. A few seconds later Mr. Pistorius called me and there was just crying, then the line went dead again.”

Roux and Baba are going around and around on who called who first. Mr. Baba is insistent that he did and he stated such in his police statement. I’m not sure how they can rectify this difference in the phone records.

Baba then next says: “If I had accepted Mr. Pistorious’ word that ‘everything is fine’ and left his premises, what would have happened?” Good question! I wonder too.

This is my own interjection here but I did get the distinct impression from both Dr. Stipp’s testimony and Baba’s testimony that Oscar wanted to handle this situation in his own way. He called Stander first for a reason. We can only speculate what that was, but the fact remains that he chose to call Stander, who I understand now is the estate administrator. He is not security, as I may have previously reported, nor is he emergency personnel. So what is his relationship to Oscar? We have yet to find out.

Baba also ponders on stand: If Oscar had heard an intruder, why didn’t he call the security right away (there were numerous cell phones and land lines in the house to use) and why did he not just activate his security alarm? More good questions.

Again interjecting, this is what leaves everybody scratching their heads. He was in a home that was surrounded by tall walls and electrical fence, there were 2 guard dogs outside, security guards patroling all night long, they were on stand-by on their phones, and he had a security alarm. It doesn’t get much safer than that. This supposed intruder that Oscar thought he was up against was behind a closed door. Why not just utilize all of his security resources and get the hell out of the house. He was in no immediate obvious danger – he didn’t see anybody, he didn’t hear voices, nobody spoke to him, there were no signs of forced entry, there was nothing.. Of course, getting out of the house would require getting Reeva first. And he made no effort to locate her that night. His only option was to immediately kill the person or persons in that room… an enclosed toilet room… where burglars frequently go when they break in to a house.

He is not claiming to be drunk that night, he does not claim amnesia, he does not claim mental illness or any other type of mental dysfunction that evening. That means that he willfully and knowingly acted as he did. All of his statements leave you with the impression that he had no other solution but to kill. But if you go back to his own version of events, you can find many other far more reasonable alternatives to rectify the situation.

He claims the room was pitch black. Remember, he was the one who made it that way. He had supposedly just closed the door and curtains behind him. If he heard a noise and was too afraid to turn on a light, why not just crack the curtain an inch to see. Again, he had just gotten out of bed, walked across the room and brought in 1 (or 2) fans from the balcony (he has reported changed his story to 2 fans). He could obviously see at that time. It’s all very convenient this “darkness” in the room. Yet, the neighbor testified they saw a light on.

Back to Baba… Baba’s first statement to police was at 1:00pm on February 14. He states that he gave his initial statement at the end of his shift. He was very tired and still in shock over the whole situation. In his first statement he couldn’t describe how Oscar carried Reeva down the stairs or what Oscar was wearing.

But then he testifies that he later gave a second statement and in that statement he was able to describe that Oscar carried Reeva down the stairs with her head facing toward the railing. It sounds like he also was able to recall the clothing that was worn but they do not reveal details at this point in the testimony.

Roux questions why he has suddenly remembered these details in his second statement. Baba reiterates that he was in shock after this incident and was very tired. He was not able to pull the details together until he had time to digest and think about it (paraphrasing).

Baba is excused.

Next to the stand is Professor Gert Saayman, the Medical Examiner who conducted the autopsy.

Earlier this morning, Saayman spoke with Nel and asked that they petition the court to cut the live feed during his testimony. He feels that ethically it should not be broadcast due to the graphic nature of the testimony. Both Nel and Roux agree with Saayman. After legal arguments are heard, including from a media lawyer, the Judge decides that she will block the live feed and will block live tweeting. Reporters are allowed to report on the information but they need to summarize. They cannot directly quote the medical examiner.

My two cents, how in the world can she make this ruling? Trials are public affairs. The public has a right to this information. I agree and support the suppression of images, out of respect and dignity for the deceased and their family. But ALL testimony in a trial is extremely important. It tells the whole story and lends transparency to the verdict that will ultimately be decided. The courts should not and cannot pick and choose what the public gets to hear. I adamantly disagree with this decision. Now we have news outlets from all over the world summarizing in their own words what they heard, and there will no doubt be inaccurate reporting.

As Dr. Saayman begins his testimony, Oscar is reported to be repeatedly vomiting and rocking back and forth in the courtroom. They had to bring him a bucket. The Judge inquires about his well-being. Roux speaks with Oscar and tells the Judge that he won’t be ok with this testimony but please proceed. They do take a break at one point but as soon as they come back, he starts retching again. Apparently he did this for a long stretch of time throughout the testimony.

OP day 6 image

Op day 6 image 4

OP day 6 image 3

As a human being, I can’t help but have a pang of sadness over how broken this man now is. It’s tragic and such a waste. But then I immediately come back to the true victims of this crime, Reeva and her loved ones, and I am very angry that he had the nerve to be walking around with a gun with hollow point bullets, reportedly using it whenever and however he chose. His choices robbed a human being of her life. Now he is having a total meltdown in court. This is what guns do. It’s horrific. He was the one who chose to carry and use that weapon.

This whole break down in court today is very telling to me. He and his defense team obviously had this autopsy information for the past year. This is not new information to him. He is breaking down for other reasons. We can only speculate what they are. Is he sobbing for Reeva or sobbing for his own lost life? Is he completely freaked out that the world now knows exactly how badly Reeva suffered at his hand and he can’t hide from this anymore? Or is there just something simply very wrong with him? Its as if he had absolutely no control yesterday. It wasn’t just a mournful man that we saw, it was reported that he was literally writhing in his chair, plugging his ears, hiding his face, puking… completely coming undone. I really am starting to think there is something wrong with him, I just have no idea what it is.

And sadly, speaking of how badly Reeva suffered…

Below is a compilation of the injuries to Reeva, per the Medical Examiner, as reported by various news outlets. They cannot quote the ME directly but they can summarize his evidence. (Warning: GRAPHIC)

Reeva’s body was nude when it was given to the Medical Examiner. The clothing that she was wearing that night and was given to the ME were a pair of Nike shorts and a black tank top (or vest, as described by the ME, which I understand is a common way to describe a tank in South Africa).

A small 5mm hole was found on the shorts, along with blood spatter. Tissue and bone fragments were found on the tank. Also some tears and small bullet fragments on the tank were reported as well. We have not seen images of the clothing, so we can only go by what is reported by the media.

The bullets used were “Ranger” bullets that are designed to cause the maximum damage on your victim. They mushroom on impact and cause very extreme damage to the tissue. This is not a crime scene photo, just a photo of the bullet type to use as reference.

OP type of bullet used

HEAD

• Likely that one of the bullets had passed through Reeva’s upper right arm and into her head.
• A bullet entered Reeva’s head in the right upper part, and ran under the skull before it exited from a second wound in the head.
• A bulk of the projectile went into the brain.
• Upper eyelids were blue-reddish.
• Soft tissue swelling but no injury to the eyes.
• Reeva did not take more than a few breaths after suffering her head wound.
• The wound to her head was an incapacitating wound.
• There was physical damage to the brain because of a substantial fracture to the base of the skull, not caused by direct trauma (indicates caused by projectile impact)

RIGHT HIP/GROIN

• A bullet wound to her right hip, 92cm from the ground. Small 5mm hole found on shorts.
• Right hip bone was shattered and this was likely to cause immediate instability.
• A bullet that hit the hip was so fragmented it was impossible to retrieve fragments.
• This would have been a “painful wound.”
• The injuries to her arm and her right groin or hip area could have been fatal.
• She would have collapsed and, unless she had something to grip onto, it would have been difficult to get back up.
• Incapacitating injury that if not operated on immediately could be fatal. He said there was a 50/50 chance of surviving the injury.
• A blue discoloration on her inner right buttocks that could have been caused from the bullet wound to her right hip.

RIGHT ARM

• Right arm was shattered, leaving it with no functionality.
• Right upper arm had a bluish discoloration surrounding that wound.

LEFT ARM

• Upper left arm was deformed due to the amount of fracture. (*It is unclear if this was a mistake by a reporter, perhaps they meant to say right arm. There was no other evidence reported of an injury to the left arm.)

OTHER INJURIES AND DETAILS

• Other wounds were caused by multiple small fragments. There was bruising on skin around the wounds.
• A grouping of abrasions, superficial fractures, on the skin of the torso. These were not penetrating injuries.
• Injuries to her left groin, but these were superficial small abrasions, possibly caused by wooden splinters from the door.
• A wound on the left hand that was between her second and third finger.
Abrasions on her body suggested damage from a blunt object, or projectiles that lost the force to penetrate the skin.
• A few bruises on her body that were not as a result of the shooting located on the upper part of the right thigh, behind the left knee and on the left shin.
• A reddish bruise on the right nipple, could have been caused by frictional contact.
• Two scratches on her back, could have been caused by a blunt object or shrapnel.
• There were splinters reported in and around some of the wounds. It was believed that the hollow point bullets, when they went through the door, collected splinters and embedded them in to the body.

Dr. Saayman will be back on the stand tomorrow to wrap up with Nel and have cross-examination with Roux.