Dershowitz: Pistorius Faces Uphill Battle Despite Prosecution’s Missteps

Friday, 22 Feb 2013 02:34 PM

By Cyrus Afzali and John Bachman

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The defense strategy of legless track star Oscar Pistorius could be hurting his murder trial rather than helping, renowned attorney Alan Dershowitz tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview.

The decision to submit an affidavit giving a detailed explanation of Pistorius’ actions on the night his girlfriend was killed could come back to bite the so-called “Blade Runner,” Dershowitz believes.

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“In all the years I’ve been practicing criminal law, which is going on half a century now, I’ve never seen a defendant submit an affidavit so early in the case before the forensics have come in,” Dershowitz said. “He’s laid out his story in great detail and if that story is in any way contradicted by what comes out in (the crime scene investigation), he’s really cooked.”

Pistorius was granted bail of 1 million rand, (about $113,000) on Friday after four days of tough hearings that have captivated the world. The case was adjourned until June 4.

Pistorius has been charged with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, whom he shot four times through a closed bathroom door. Pistorius has testified that he mistook her for an intruder and did not intend to kill her.

Dershowitz believes Pistorius may have decided to submit the affidavit because he and his lawyers are convinced of his innocence. Another possibility is that the 26-year-old runner may have forced his attorney into that strategy, thinking it would increase the chances bail would be granted.

“It may hurt him the long run. In my experience, celebrities often take short-term solutions over long-term strategies,” Dershowitz said. “We’ll wait and see whether this was a good move or a bad move.”

The bail hearing in Pretoria was littered with prosecution errors, most notably the revelation that Hilton Botha, the lead detective in the case, is himself facing seven counts of attempted murder. Botha, who has now been removed from the case, was also accused of contaminating the crime scene and he backtracked on vital evidence.

But Dershowitz said it’s still too early to tell what the outcome of the case will be. He pointed out that in South Africa, the prosecution wins most of their cases and indictments generally don’t come unless prosecutors feel they have a strong case. However, Dershowitz said the charges “will take a lot to prove.”

“I don’t think anybody could predict what the outcome is going to be. A criminal trial is not a contest between which version of the facts is more plausible,” he said. “The public often has a difficult time with the distinction between what really happened and what the evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Dershowitz, who was interviewed before the judge granted bail Friday, said Pistorius is probably not considered a flight risk, which is a major factor behind such decisions.

“He has one of the most recognized faces in the world, so he’s not going anywhere.” But he said prosecutors may have been trying to punish the Olympian by opposing bail.

“What really motivates them is they may lose the case and they want to punish him because they believe he did it,” Dershowitz said. “So if he stays in jail for a year and then gets acquitted, at least they have gotten some punishment.”

Other factors that make predicting the eventual outcome of the case difficult, Dershowitz believes, include the fact that there is no jury and that judges are political appointees. Added to that, he said the defendant is likely to point to South Africa’s high crime rate as the reason he owned the gun.

“He’s going to say it’s dangerous there, homeowners are never safe, we all have guns and we’re nervous. We may be trigger-happy, but there’s a reason for it. So it will very much depend on who the judge is because the judge has all the power here.”

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