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The teddy bear vs. the pitbull: Pistorius trial's larger-than-life lawyers  

April 17, 2014 at 9:21 AM ET

Video: As the trial of Oscar Pistorius continues, prosecutor Gerrie Nel, also known as “The Pitbull,” and lead defense lawyer Barry Roux, one of South Africa’s most expensive attorneys, are the focus of public attention. NBC national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen reports.

The Oscar Pistorius trial is dominating headlines in South Africa — and the courtroom drama has created two unlikely celebrities. 

Pistorius' defense attorney Barry Roux and prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who are squaring off in court for just the second time in their careers, have left a lasting impression on the South African public with their bombastic styles. 

"Both of them have huge, huge personas that are going to completely outlive this trial,'' journalist Nastasya Tay told NBC's Jeff Rossen on TODAY. 

Nicknamed "The Pitbull," Nel's aggressiveness became world-famous when his recent cross-examination left the South African star sprinter in tears. The prosecution aims to prove that Pistorius shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in cold blood after an argument in February of last year, while the defense is arguing that he shot her through a closed bathroom door because he thought she was an intruder. 

The last time Nel and Roux faced off in court, Nel won. 

"He's regarded as one of the country's topmost prosecutors,'' Tay said. "Several years ago, he managed to take down the former police commissioner, and he has this real reputation for being very thorough. He will not take on a case unless he believes he can win it. And he's also really ferocious." 

Nel does not socialize with colleagues and arrives to court by 6 a.m. every day, Rossen reported. In his free time, he is a youth wrestling instructor. His hard-nosed style has also been parodied in a local radio station's rap song, featuring lines like, "My name is Gerrie Nel, and I am mad as hell, and when I get you on the stand I will make you tell," and "I don't have no feelings, new lies I'm revealing." 

Roux has been parodied in popular song, too, and his — with lines like, "I'm Barry Roux and I put it to you, 10 times in a row just to confuse you" — has more than 200,000 views on YouTube. Roux, who reportedly is costing Pistorius an estimated $5,000 a day, is routinely surrounded by people looking to get photos with him. 

"I'm embarrassed,'' Roux told Rossen about all the attention. 

When asked in March by news service VOA if he had been too tough on witnesses, Roux smiled and said, "I'm a teddy bear." 

After Nel's five-day cross-examination of Pistorius that ended Tuesday, Roux and the defense are calling their witnesses in the trial. Court adjourned Thursday and will be back on May 5 after a two-week recess.

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