Top defence lawyer star of Pistorius murder case

Johannesburg:  South African legal eagle Barry Roux who is defending Oscar Pistorius in his murder charge has emerged as the star of the world headline grabbing case.

The veteran lawyer, right from the onset of the hearing, exposed irregularities in the state's case, resulting in the athlete being granted bail on Friday.

With his sharp line of questioning, the respected criminal lawyer who has handled a string of high-profile cases appeared to have changed the course of the case.

He picked apart the state's case that Pistorius planned the murder of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day.

Under his intense cross examination, a tardy investigating officer who attended to the murder scene was reduced to a bumbling amateur, as he struggled to provide sufficient forensic evidence on the circumstances of the shooting.

In a case that has captured the world's attention, Roux forced the investigator, Hilton Botha, to concede that police had missed crucial forensic evidence on the scene, compromising the case.

Botha had to admit that the evidence provided by Pistorius was consistent with the crime scene, dealing a blow to the state's case in what was seen as an early victory for the defence team.

Steenkamp was shot three times through the bathroom door early on February 14, with wounds to her head, elbow and hip, in what Pistorius has described as a "horrible accident".

The veteran lawyer, also went on to cast doubt on key witnesses at the bail hearing, including a neighbour who claims to have heard "non-stop fighting" from Pistorius' house before the shooting.

Spectators are adamant that Roux's legal prowess has weakened the state's case that the murder was premeditated.

With 31 years' experience in the legal fraternity, Roux, a Senior Counsel, who is currently based in Pretoria was admitted to the Johannesburg Bar in 1982.

He has taken on some of the most controversial cases in South Africa, including the long running tax evasion trial of Dave King, a Glasgow-born businessman.

In the 1990s he defended apartheid era general Lothar Neethling, who sued a newspaper over claims that he supplied poison used against anti-apartheid activists.

Cape Town-based lawyer William Booth praised Roux for the "efficient and astute manner" in which he handled the Pistorius bail hearing.

His imposing build and high-pitched voice make him a commanding figure in court, as he pounces on his opponents, ruthlessly exposing their flaws and painting them as amateurs.

Magistrate Desmond Nair had to occasionally intervene on behalf of hapless witnesses as they came under pressure from Roux's barrage of questioning.

The "Blade Runner" murder trial has attracted huge international interest and as it is expected to drag for months or even years, Roux will have further opportunities to showcase his skills.

Outside court, when asked about the challenges of working on the case, Roux jokingly said: "There's a call I received last week. Had I known I would not have taken it."

Story First Published: February 22, 2013 23:14 IST

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