#OscarTrial - Judge Masipa: Burger & Johnson were mistaken

Masipa says neighbours Michelle Burger & Charl Johnson couldn't differentiate between male and female screams.

Judge Thokozile Masipa. Picture: Pool.

PRETORIA - Judge Thokozile Masipa has begun reading her judgment in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius at the High Court in Pretoria.

Masipa said it became clear that some of the sounds the neighbours thought were gunshots were the bat striking the door.

"Some of the witnesses missed some of the sounds either because they were asleep or their focus was elsewhere."

She said, neigbours, Michelle Burger and Charl Johnson were unfairly criticised for the way their statements were written as the Investigating Officer had his own style.

"I do not think Burger or Johnson were dishonest. They recounted what they remember, but were genuinely mistaken.

"It's easy to see why they were mistaken as their distance from the scene puts them at a disadvantage."

She said the witnesses had ever heard the accused scream, so they had no prior knowledge or model to compare to.

"The acoustics expert cast serious doubt whether the witnesses could differentiate between a male or female scream.

SHOTS

Masipa describing the wounds and said that the hip wound would have caused immediate instability.

"The deceased suffered a devastating wound to her arm. The head wound was immediately incapacitating."

The judge said the shots were fired in quick succession which meant the deceased would not have been able to scream.

"The only other person who could have screamed was the accused."

She said other reasons why ' most witnesses got their facts wrong' was because of media exposure following the incident.

"The defence correctly submitted that Stipp's evidence related to times was unreliable. I do not agree with the defence's contention that Johan Stipp tailored his evidence."

She said it was unwise to rely on evidence of witnesses without testing it against objective facts.

"Thankfully this court can rely on objective evidence in the form of technology like the phone records."

"The phone records can be used as a base to establish when the shots were fired, screams heard and bat hitting door."

She then dealt with the chronology of events, starting at 2:20am when the guard track was activated and then the shots after 3am.

"After the shots, screams were heard, then neighbours started phoning security, then the bat strikes the door…

"…after the bat was heard striking the door, the accused made three calls."

Masipa set out 23 points linked to times and events, ending with the police arriving on the scene.

She said this chronology will prove useful in establishing whether the accused showed intent and premeditation.

BEGINNING OF JUDGMENT

Earlier, Masipa entered the courtroom and told the accused he can be seated.

She added that she'll indicate when he must rise again.

Masipa dove straight into her judgment by laying the foundation with the details of Pistorius's house, it's layout which includes the bedroom, en suite facilities and small cubicle toilet.

"On 13 February, the accused spent the night at home with his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. On the 14th he shot and killed her.

"The deceased was locked inside the locked toilet cubicle when she was shot."

Masipa read through the charges as they were put to the accused, starting with the firearm-related charges.

Pistorius stares ahead at Masipa from his seat as she reads out the charges against him with his face giving very little away.

Video: Witnesses.

Masipa appears to have a small book stand on her desk, holding up her judgment at an angle so she can read from it.

The judge read out each count:

Count 1 is the charge of murder

Count 2 is the shooting from the sunroof.

Count 3 involves the shooting incident at Tashas.

Count 4 is the illegal possession of ammunition charge.

Pistoirus pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Masipa said regarding count 1, "The accused described the incident as a tragic after he mistakenly believed intruders entered his home."

She read from the record where Pistorius explained hearing the noise, fetching his firearm and approaching the danger.

"There was no explanation in plea as to counts 2, 3 and 4."

COUNT 1: MURDER

Masipa said, "The accused admitted that the gunshot wounds were inflicted by him. The state believed there was an argument that led to the shooting."

She added that the state called neighbour Estelle Van der Merwe who said she heard what she believed was an argument at about 2am.

"Neighbours, Johan and Annette Stipp heard gunshots and someone shouting for help. Michael Nhlengethwa, an immediate neighbour, heard a person calling for help and called security. "

She said the accused denied that he killed the deceased intentionally and denied premeditation.

The judge added that Pistoirus said he heard noises which he believed was an intruder entering his house.

"He said he mistakenly believed an intruder was in the toilet and Reeva Steenkamp was in the bedroom.

"Common cause, the deceased died of gunshot wounds while she was in the toilet."

Masipa said a lot of evidence has been led and it would be serve no purpose to rehash it all.

"Several issues were raised in the trial which include claims of contaminated scene and the authenticity of the photos.

She said in her judgment, the gunshots, cricket bat hitting the door and screams will be discussed together.

The judge will spend a significant amount of time summarising the evidence of 37 witnesses who testified over 39 court days.

ARRIVAL AT COURT

Pistorius arrived earlier at the North Gauteng High Court which has a strong police presence.

There was a also massive media contingent outside court as members of the Steenkamp and Pistorius families arrived.

Steenkamp's mother, June was offered a hug as she arrived.

Pistoriu's brother Carl, who was recently involved in a car accident in Limpopo, arrived on a wheelchair.

Carl's his two legs and right arm are in splints.

The athlete's siblings attended almost every day of proceedings.

Steenkamp's parents Barry and June have taken up their spot behind the prosecution team, and have been joined by relatives, their daughter's friends and the ANC Women's League.

Additional court officials have been deployed to control the large number of reporters and members of the public trying to gain access.

The dozen TV screens that were setup for the trial have now been removed as the focus falls fully on Masipa.

For more on the trial, click here, or visit the live Oscar Pistorius blog, click here.

Pictures: EWN.