Wed, Feb 26, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Most of Pistorius’ trial can be televised: judge

‘OPEN JUSTICE’:A 24-hour TV channel on the murder trial starts on Sunday, and a live audio broadcast will be allowed. Parallels have already been drawn to O.J. Simpson’s trial

AFP, PRETORIA

A South African judge yesterday ruled that most of Oscar Pistorius’ trial for last year’s killing of his girlfriend can be broadcast live, but not the Paralympian’s own testimony.

Judge Dunstan Mlambo said cameras would be allowed “to obtain a video and audio recording” of opening arguments, the evidence of state witnesses, closing arguments and the verdict and sentencing.

However, cameras will not be allowed to film Pistorius, witnesses for the defense or anyone else who objects to appearing on camera, he added.

A live audio broadcast will be allowed throughout the trial, which is due to open on Monday.

The ruling sets the stage for a court case that is likely to garner worldwide attention and which has already drawn parallels with the trial of disgraced US football player O.J. Simpson.

With the full glare of the world’s media bearing down upon him, the 27-year-old South African sprinter will appear in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to hear one charge of murder and three firearms charges.

Pistorius is accused of the Valentine’s Day murder of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. He admits to shooting 29-year-old Steenkamp four times through a locked toilet door, but says he mistook her for an intruder.

Media outlets had applied to broadcast the trial via remote-controlled cameras inside the courtroom.

A 24-hour channel dedicated to his trial starts on South African network TV on Sunday.

“We’re absolutely thrilled. This is a seminal judgement. It’s precedent-setting. It’s a victory for open justice,” said George Mazarakis, the channel’s executive director.

Pistorius’ legal team was fiercely opposed to the trial being broadcast, saying it would infringe on the athlete’s rights and distort proceedings.

It was not immediately clear if the defense would appeal the ruling, a decision which could delay the start of the trial.

“We are still studying the judgement,” Pistorius’ lawyer Brian Webber said.

The ruling is a landmark for South Africa’s legal system, where only a handful of trials — including the not guilty verdict in South African President Jacob Zuma’s trial for rape — have been televised.

To some degree, South African justice will also be in the dock, after Pistorius’ bail hearing exposed shoddy work by the lead detective, Hilton Botha, who was consequently removed from the case and has since quit the force.

Mlambo said televising the trial could also dispel allegations that in South Africa, justice can be bought.

“The justice system is still perceived as treating the rich and famous with kid gloves whilst being harsh on the poor and vulnerable,” he said. “Enabling a larger South African society to follow first-hand the criminal proceedings which involve a celebrity, so to speak, will go a long way into dispelling these negative and unfounded perceptions.”

Pistorius, whose legs were amputated below the knee when he was a young boy, rose to global fame sprinting on two fiber-optic blades. Known as the “Blade Runner,” he ran against able-bodied athletes in the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Reeva’s family, which has repeatedly called for information that will give them closure into her death, will attend the trial.

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