Pistorius Expert Provides Media With Work Done for Defense

The Evidence Room of Cleveland, Ohio has a problem. It was retained by the defense in the Oscar Pistorius case to create a re-enactment of the shooting of Oscar's girlfriend Reeva.

The reenactment, with commentary by Scott Roder, President of the Evidence Room, as it's being run on a display monitor, aired last night on Australian TV. Since Roder appears in the interview, and takes the interviewer through it, it's not possible he wasn't aware Seven News had it. Roder also talks about what Oscar told him (something a defense lawyer would never do.)

In the exclusive interview, Roder says he is convinced Pistorius did not mean to kill his girlfriend on the morning of February 14, after weeks of interviewing and analysing the evidence. "Absolutely, they physical evidence is consistent and his story remains unchanged," Roder told Sunday Night reporter Ross Coulthart."If you look at the evidence Oscar's clearly not guilty.


The defense team didn't introduce the animation during the trial and says it did not authorize Roder to release it. It is outraged that Roder would have shared it with the media (it's not yet clear whether Roder sold it but the defense believes he was paid.) The defense says it had a non-disclosure agreement with the Evidence Room that prohibited it from disclosing its work.

“We wish to make it very clear that the material that has been aired was obtained illegally and in breach of the non-disclosure agreement with the Evidence Room,” said one of Pistorius’ lawyers, Brian Webber, in a statement Sunday.

An article in the West Australian says:

Seven kept the existence of the footage secret until just hours before the show aired, sparking a frenzy in the US, Britain and particularly in South Africa, where the Olympic athlete's marathon murder trial is continuing.

Mr Pistorius' legal team tried to stop the video being aired, claiming that it had been given to Seven by a US-based forensic animator against their wishes.

That would account for the statement by another Pistorius representative that that they were in contact with Seven News before the airing:

It has come to our attention that Channel Seven purchased this footage unlawfully. In addition, during our engagement with Channel Seven, we received an undertaking that they would not air any of the material before the end of the trial." (my emphasis).

More from the defense statement:

"Its usage also constitutes a breach of privilege as this material was produced for trial purposes on the instructions of a commissioner, and the ownership of the copyright vests in the commissioner. No permission for the disclosure thereof has been given."

It's not clear when they got this "undertaking" or to whom it was given -- Roder or the defense team.

Since there's no jury, and it hasn't been admitted, I doubt it will affect the trial. If it was obtained in violation of the attorney-client privilege, the prosecution can't use it:

Stephen Tuson, an associate law professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said....

"If it was produced by the defence as part of their investigation and preparation for the trial, it's strictly privileged, it's confidential and it can not be used," said Tuson.

The Telegraph says the video doesn't match Oscar's trial version entirely. But, it also says:

However, it is possible The Evidence Room filmed Pistorius re-enacting both his own version and the state’s, in order to show which was more feasible.

It's also possible they played the parts with Oscar moving back and forth on his stumps in fast-motion. From the promo, it seems to me like they did.

(The voice-over on the promo is absolutely ghoulish -- very low and ominous, like we're about to see a horror movie.) Here's the cover shot for the promo:

The defense statement says the defense had not yet seen the footage and could not say whether it was a true reflection of Oscar's account.

My speculation: It sounds like the defense caught wind of the show only when Seven News started advertising it, hours before it aired, and called Roder, who told them the network had promised him it wouldn't air it until after trial, and then called the network to try and dissuade them from airing it, threatening legal action.

One question that comes to mind: Did the defense know Roder agreed to a paid interview, to be aired after the trial, and approve, having no idea Roder would share the ultimate work product with them as part of the interview? I think that's possible. Why would the defense do that? Perhaps Roder's company was still owed money for its work on the case and this was a way it could get paid. Oscar's been running low on funds and had to use the proceeds from the sale of his house to pay his lawyers. But I think the defense is being truthful that it had no idea the animation was going to be shared with the network.

It is also quite possible that Roder didn't give the network a copy of the animation or sell it, as opposed to letting the network view it as he was being interviewed, and that the network, in taping Roder, recorded the animation as it was being displayed on the screen. He may have been paid for the interview, not the copy of the animation.

While the show isn't available for viewing in the U.S., I have been able to watch a 10 minute segment with Roder available in Australia in which he explains the animation. (There are internet programs and apps that allow you to watch videos that are blocked in your country. I'm not going to mention their names here.)

From the segment:

In addition to taking the interviewer though the animation, Roder also plays sounds and shows images of experiments he did with gunshots and cricket bats -- he even plays a recreation of the sound of the magazine rack moving. Here's Roder doing a gunshot experiment and playing the sound of the bat:

Roder seems like a very earnest and competent expert and he's clearly trying to convince the reporter Oscar is innocent. I don't think he thought he was doing anything wrong. He may have gotten hoodwinked.

But whatever Roder's ultimate version is, the fact remains he agreed to an interview, showed the network the work he had done for the defense, and played his independent testing of gunshots and sounds. Even if he got hoodwinked as to the timing of the airing, I think it reflects poorly on his company and is likely to create trust issues, resulting in lawyers who might have hired him deciding to use a different expert.

The Seven News Network says it acted fairly, but it hasn't denied promising someone -- either Roder or the defense team -- that the interview wouldn't air until after the trial. Mostly it justifies airing the video by saying it was in the public interest and it presented both sides.

As to the poll that ran after the show in which 51% of the million votes thought Oscar was guilty, I suspect that was in large part due to the sequence of the segments. First it aired Roder and his video, then it aired a segment with a different guy arguing for guilt, and ended with friends of the victim crying about their loss. By the time the viewing public finished watching the tears, they probably didn't even remember what Roder had said almost an hour beforehand. Pretty cheesy, if you ask me.

In other Oscar news, the defense agreed to the release of the full 50 page psychiatric report. You can view it here via Scribd.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Roder maybe just shot himself (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 10:22:49 AM EST
    in the foot w/respect to the future earnings of his company.

    Yeh, I would think so (none / 0) (#2)
    by Zorba on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 12:24:35 PM EST
    Who's going to trust him not to speak to the media before the trial is over?  And Roder was stupid for believing that Channel Seven wouldn't air it until after the trial.

    The obligation of a provider of technical services (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Peter G on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 08:54:37 PM EST
    to a criminal defense team is to keep the work private, confidential, and undisclosed, not until the trial is over, but forever, unless defense counsel chooses to use and disclose it.  This material was not merely disclosed prematurely; it was improperly disclosed, period.

    Especially talking to a reporter (none / 0) (#4)
    by ruffian on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 02:29:20 PM EST
    that is a dead ringer for Julian Assange, at least in those pictures.

    ... their fifteen minutes of fame as allotted to them by the late Andy Warhol, relatively few ever pause to consider the potential high cost of that quarter-hour.

    LOL! (none / 0) (#5)
    by Zorba on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 02:46:34 PM EST
    Fifteen minutes of fleeting fame, versus the rest of his career, which he may have severely undermined by his inability to keep his mouth shut.

    Fame? (none / 0) (#6)
    by squeaky on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 03:57:37 PM EST
    More likely $$$

    Oh, I would not be at all surprised (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Zorba on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 04:08:48 PM EST
    If the news channel paid him for this.  OTOH, did they pay him enough that it would make up for the business he winds up losing?
    Who knows?   ;-)

    Benefit of Doubt (none / 0) (#11)
    by squeaky on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 10:51:53 PM EST
    I think that the deal was to release the paid for interview after the trial...  otherwise it does not make financial sense.

    he was hoodwinked, imo


    Warhol was a genius (none / 0) (#8)
    by sj on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 05:35:43 PM EST
    But I heartily wish he had kept his "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes..." bit to himself.

    That "15 minutes of fame" bit has been used and overused and over-overused as a handy shortcut phrase to diminish and belittle actual human beings.

    Granted some beings are very hard to take seriously, but they live and breathe and have feelings. Mostly.

    It's a nasty little phrase with as much depth as "I know you are, but what am I?"



    It's just a phrase. (none / 0) (#9)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 07:46:30 PM EST
    And it was Andy Warhol who allegedly first said it, after all (see below). He was a genius as you noted, and as such was hardly a shrinking violet in the ego department, and therefore not someone I'd generally associate with the concept of humility.

    If you don't like Warhol's observation about fame, which I'll agree was a rather cold and dismissive remark at the time it was first offered contemporaneously by him, then you should follow your conscience as you are, and not quote or paraphrase it.

    And as an aside, you piqued my curiosity as to when Warhol first offered his famous quip, and so I learned that last April, both the London Daily Mail and The Telegraph posited that the iconic remark may not have even originated with Andy Warhol, and was perhaps misattributed to him.

    Interesting stuff if you like Warhol, as I know some people do here. Apparently, the "quote" actually came from a 1968 brochure publicizing a then-upcoming retrospective of Warhol's work in Stockholm, and up to that point nobody had ever heard him say it in person.

    Regardless of its actual origins, though, I wouldn't knowingly use the Warhol / 15 minutes snark in talking about someone who, for example, got dragged unwittingly or unwillingly into a public controversy or scandal and never sought the personal publicity.

    Rather, I reserve the quip for those times when I suspect that someone is going to some rather extraordinary lengths in order to call public attention to him- or herself.

    In today's context, I think Scott Roder knew exactly what he was doing here when he went on Australian TV, and whatever his reasons for doing so, he breached the presumed confidentiality he had with his client.

    And since Roder obviously didn't care one wit about his client's feelings (defense counsel Barry Roux has denounced Roder for his act), I'm certainly not going to worry about his.



    It's an overused, shallow phrase (none / 0) (#16)
    by sj on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 02:26:01 PM EST
    [new] It's just a phrase. (none / 0) (#9)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 06:46:30 PM MDT
    Which is often used, as in this case, as a vehicle to dispense scorn without having to back it up with real insight. Or anything at all for that matter.

    I have no real quarrel with Warhol. Like I said, he was a genius -- and not even a genius' every word is a pearl. Moreover, he wasn't the one who overused the phrase.


    This seems very telling (none / 0) (#12)
    by jbindc on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 07:38:14 AM EST

    The defence lawyer Barry Roux said he had finished calling witnesses to testify in the trial of Pistorius, who killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp by firing through a closed toilet door in his home.

    "We close the case for the defence," said Roux. Some witnesses did not want to testify for the defence because of publicity surrounding the case, he said, adding that he chose not to ask the judge, Thokozile Masipa, to compel them to appear.

    "There's nothing that we can do about it," he said in the Pretoria courtroom where the trial of the double-amputee runner has been held since March.

    So, either Roux is so confident in his case that he thinks he doesn't need them (although I can't imagine how), or, more likely, in my opinion, he thinks they will add very little to defend Pistorius and their reluctance to testify will give fuel to the prosecution (and seem like they are not confident in their stories). Or they are terrible witnesses that will be eaten alive.

    Or the witnesses Mr. Roux declined to put (none / 0) (#13)
    by oculus on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 10:24:57 AM EST
    on the stand were on his witness list but he determined they would not prove helpful to the defense.

    Yep (none / 0) (#14)
    by jbindc on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 10:33:24 AM EST
    ...in my opinion, he thinks they will add very little to defend Pistorius and their reluctance to testify will give fuel to the prosecution (and seem like they are not confident in their stories).

    Of course, saying things like "They don't want to testify because of the publicity," (to me) just makes it look like he's afraid they won't stand up to the scrutiny. All he had to say was, "I have no more witnesses to call."


    This is just one of those situations (none / 0) (#15)
    by NYShooter on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 11:23:57 AM EST
    that adds nothing to our understanding of this case, and, only adds to the confusion and speculation surrounding it. Like you stated all he had to say was, "I have no more witnesses to call." If he thought saying it like he did somehow benefits his client the idea was lost on me.

    Most cases I've been familiar with the lawyers for both sides save their more powerful witnesses for the end of the trial in order for the jury to have their testimony fresh in their minds as they go into deliberation. IMO, either those dismissed witnesses had nothing important to add, and the defense attorney stated his excuse as if important, exculpatory evidence would now be unavailable to Oscar, or, by this time in the trial, they may have been more helpful for the prosecution.

    Sounds like desperation to me.