Court Allows Live TV and Audio For Oscar Pistorius Trial

Oscar Pistorius goes on trial Monday in South Africa for the killing of his girlfriend and illegal possession of ammunition. Yesterday, a judge ruled parts of the trial will be televised and live audio will be provided for all of it.

The trial will take place in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

Eyewitness News, eNCA and MultiChoice are launching a 24 hour Oscar trial channel on Sunday.

The televised portions include opening and closing arguments and the state's witnesses. Oscar's testimony, and the testimony of his witnesses will only be available on audio. [More...]

Where things stand now, according to one news source:

In a case where there is only one surviving witness -- the accused -- forensic and material evidence is expected to be key. The treatment of the crime scene may throw the reliability of that evidence into doubt.

Already the prosecution looks set to concede that Pistorius was further away from the door when he shot than they first argued and that he was not in fact wearing his prostheses. Both arguments were initially put forward as evidence that Pistorius was not in fact scared and his actions were premeditated.

Pistorius opposed the media's request to televise the trial, arguing it would interfere with his right to a fair trial and inhibit witnesses giving testimony. He also argued it could "allow tailoring of evidence, fabrication, adaption." How do you sequester witnesses when the trial is broadcast everywhere? The judge sounds less concerned with Oscar's rights than the image of South Africa:

The judge said that enabling a larger South African society to follow first hand the criminal proceedings involving a celebrity would go a long way in dispelling negative and unfounded perceptions about the justice system “treating the rich and famous with kid gloves while being harsh on the poor and vulnerable”.

The trial judge will be Judge Matilda Masipa, The judge who issued the media ruling is Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo.

Last week the state filed a list of 13 points it says it will rely on to prove guilt. The document got leaked to the media (the state claims it did not leak the document.) The points are:

  • Evidence from a neighbour who stated she heard what she thought was arguing in the early hours of 14 February 2013.
  • Testimony from two witnesses who heard a woman scream before shots were fired.
  • Testimony from another two witnesses who heard shots followed by a woman's screams, and then further shots.
  • An analysis of Pistorius's website browsing during the evening, which the State believes is in contrast to that of a loving couple spending time together.
  • Analysis of the shots fired through the bathroom door, which indicate intention to kill the person behind the door.
  • Evidence relating to the position and condition of the gun in the bathroom.
  • Pistorius's own statement that he shot through the door without ascertaining who was behind the door.
  • The fact that Steenkamp was clothed when she was shot.
  • The fact that Steenkamp was standing up and facing the door when she was shot.
  • Post-mortem result indicating Steenkamp had something to eat hours before being killed.
  • The presence of cellphones in the bathroom is apparently in contrast to her innocently going to the toilet in the middle of the night.

The lawyers on both sides are very experienced and both have excellent reputations. Here is a profile of Oscar's lawyer, Barry Roux, and one on prosecutor Gerrie Nell.

Oscar has hired a team of forensic experts for his trial. Among them: The Evidence Room (from Cleveland, Ohio) which specializes in animated crime scene re-enactments;

The Oscar live trial channel is here. If you want to skip the talking heads and follow on Twitter, these are the reporters whose feeds I found most valuable and reliable during the bail hearings. Oscar Pistorius' also has a twitter feed, OscarHardTruth, run by his PR team, which will offer trial updates.

My last recap with links to the indictment and witness list is here. My posts live-blogging his four day bail hearing are here.

Media Tenor SA recently analyzed the South African coverage of Oscar's case (more than 105,000 articles) and found it slanted against him.

“There seemed to be a slight change in the tonality. Also, with regards to Oscar, he was initially compared to fallen sport heroes — then this changed to a more the general criminal comparison. First, he was an athlete who stumbled. Now, he’s a criminal, who used to be an athlete,” said [analyst]Nieuwoudt.

There is no jury, but the judge has appointed two "assessors" to assist her.

The audio feeds of the trial will be broadcast via MultiChoice and Primedia, which will stream some or all of the proceedings on radio station websites like 702, Cape Talk, Highveld and Kfm.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Previously, to me, (none / 0) (#1)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 01:16:22 PM EST
    his story that he thought an intruder was in his bathroom sounded like complete poppycock.

    It will be interesting to see if that impression stands after all the evidence/testimony is presented.

    I'm with you in part but... (none / 0) (#2)
    by gbrbsb on Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 03:56:32 PM EST
    I don't see how it will be provable as "premeditated" since it sounds more like a "heat of the argument" thing.

    On the other hand, iirc, the charge is not limited to shooting to kill Reeva who Pistorious may or may not have believed was still in the bedroom, but shooting to kill whoever was behind the toilet door, be it Reeva or a burglar. (As is the case here in the UK I am not sure SA laws on shooting in self defence are as open as in the US where it seems even a mere verbal threat is sufficient to justify shooting to kill).


    Interesting discussion of (none / 0) (#4)
    by oculus on Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 06:25:00 PM EST
    "transferred malice":



    Thanks, nice link and yes interesting discussion.. (none / 0) (#5)
    by gbrbsb on Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 11:26:44 PM EST
    however "transferred malice" (or "dolus indeterminatus" as the article refers to it) has the premise of an unlawful act so not that easy in this case.

    From a cursory read of the 74 page Wikipedia entry "South African Criminal Law", if the prosecution does go down the "any corpse will do" route, it seems to me they would first need to show that shooting through the door at what OP claims he thought was a burglar was an "unlawful" act, which it isn't unless they either prove malice (if they can prove BARD OP fired several shots through the door after hearing screams following his first shot it should go towards that) and/or, even more difficult, OP's was an unreasonable response, which in the dark with a double amputee on stumps would be a real feat. And even then it seems they would still need to prove that OP foresaw, or at very least "ought to have foreseen" the consequences of shooting blindly through a door and disprove his claim of shooting in a state of fear and stress... should make for a curious case at least. (jmo)


    One British article I read (none / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 11:35:42 PM EST
    compared what a person inside a home being burglarized might reasonably fear in Britain (that the suspect would not be armed w/a firearm) v. South Africa (firearm and probably multiple suspects).

    Yep, sounds right, over here not armed ... (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by gbrbsb on Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 11:42:53 PM EST
    and dare I say very proud of it ;-)

    What is the penalty for illegal (none / 0) (#8)
    by oculus on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 10:35:18 AM EST
    possession of a firearm?

    You mean over here ? (none / 0) (#14)
    by gbrbsb on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 03:50:45 PM EST
    I didn¡t know off hand, but as you piqued my curiosity I thought I'd look it up... FWIW to anyone but me.  

    The wikipedia entry "Gun politics in the UK" notes a mandatory 5 year sentence for "permitted" firearms (i.e. shotguns and rifles) and a mandatory 10 years for "prohibited" ones which includes (handguns come under the first type):

    ☛ Fully automatic or burst-fire weapons, which may include some air guns.
    ☛ Firearms disguised as another item (e.g. walking sticks, mobile telephones, etc.)

    although judges have discretion to reduce the mandatory if you show special circumstances (not so mandatory then?!); reductions anti gun groups here, (yep, we have them too as well as our very own lil old NRA which a la US cousin opposes any legislation at all) want to stop.

    Interesting titbits. The UK has one of the strictest gun control legislation in the world matched with one of the lowest rates of shooting deaths (and we don't catch up in deaths by other means either).  Such strict legislation was born out of the only genuine spree killings we ever had, Hungerford and Dunblane, albeit ironically, both carried out by legally licensed holders!

    To obtain a shotgun license (only given for hunting, pest control or clay pigeon etc. shooting), the police must show good reason why the applicant should not have one, while to obtain one for a rifle, only given for the same uses, the applicant must show good reason why they should. Before awarding a license the police make fairly extensive checks including a  home visit to check the gun cabinet where licensees are obliged by law to keep firearms under lock and key and under their sole control.. it seems gun owners have had licenses revoked because granny knew where the key was! Except in N. Ireland, "Self defence" is not accepted as a reason for needing a gun.  

    In all, it's hard to believe we invented the Castle Doctrine and enshrined the right to bear arms before the US did !


    of "Sherlock," a recent 90 minute brit TV series, and I was wondering how the flat cap cabby was going to physically make Sherlock choose a pill to take (one being poison, and one not). Sure enough, he pulled out a gun. I was kinda disappointed, actually. Seemed like a lack of imagination on the part of the writers.

    Even further OT, is this more or less true?:

    The violent crime rate in the UK is 3,100 per 100,000, and in the US it is 380 per 100,000 population.

    I think that in G.B. (none / 0) (#12)
    by NYShooter on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 03:05:59 PM EST
    they consider ad hominem comments as "violent crimes." And, in the U.S. assault with a deadly weapon is classified as "self defense."

    You have a way with words! (none / 0) (#13)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 03:11:17 PM EST
    It it was directed at me orry if I am a bit dim... (none / 0) (#15)
    by gbrbsb on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 05:35:48 PM EST
    ...  but not sure if you're serious or having me on.

    Incendiary titles of several posts on the blog you linked to, (e.g."The Holocaust Began With Gun Control - After A Shooting"), raise doubts as to it's reliability and bias, and that's before reading the two violent crime reports it links to as a basis for their arguments, each of which notes about its own statistics:


    "Violent crime covers a wide range of offences, from minor assaults such as pushing and shoving that result in no physical harm through to serious incidents of wounding and murder."


    "In the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault."

    And this quote from the Wikipedia entry "Violent Crime by Country" imo clarifies it all;  

    "The comparison of violent crime statistics between countries is usually problematic, due to the way different countries classify crime."

    Ah, so you DO consider ad hominems (none / 0) (#16)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 06:14:57 PM EST
    to be violent crimes!

    Kidding of course, good points about not being comparable country-to-country.


    Well, you made me look further. (none / 0) (#17)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 06:27:56 PM EST
    The UK is pretty high on the scale of assaults and burglaries, higher than the US on both, maybe that's where the claims of violence came from.

    Hmmn... more assaulters and burglars here... (none / 0) (#20)
    by gbrbsb on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 08:41:51 PM EST
    maybe because we don't have the guns to shoot 'em all ?... and don't forget all that pushing and shoving... that must beef our violent crime figures up too... especially down Oxford Street ; - )

    What shocked me in your link were the rape figures... the UK on the par with the US !? I've lived most of my life in Spain where rape is rare so I never realised it was so big in the UK. Same with crimes against kids, so rare in Spain and horribly all too common here and in the US... ugh !


    there's an open thread (none / 0) (#18)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 06:31:07 PM EST
    please keep this to Mr. Pistorius. Thanks

    Sorry, I only saw your comment after I posted... (none / 0) (#21)
    by gbrbsb on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 08:43:37 PM EST
    I'll try to remember so it won't happen again.

    That issue aside (and I'm with you) (none / 0) (#9)
    by Mr Natural on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 11:12:51 AM EST
    was shooting blindly through a closed door a rational response?

    I'm looking forward to the comments, and will don appropriate attire, flameproof down to and including asbestos skivvies.


    is alleging, then yes, completely rational.

    and it may have been an accident (none / 0) (#19)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 06:33:32 PM EST
    as he says. The prosecution has already conceded he did not have his prosthetic limbs on as they had claimed at the bail hearing.

    Presumption of innocence (even in South Africa), burden of proof is on the prosecution.


    What may have been an accident? (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by unitron on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 06:46:55 AM EST
    What definition of "accident" are you using here?

    He may well have intended to fire the gun at someone entirely else, but he's not claiming to have "accidentally" pulled the trigger 4 times, is he?