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Pistorius murder trial interrupted on 2nd day

Leaked Witness Photo Halts Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) - The second day of Oscar Pistorius' murder trial was dramatically interrupted Tuesday and the judge ordered an investigation into allegations that a South African television channel was broadcasting a photograph of a witness - against a court order guaranteeing privacy to witnesses who request it.

Judge Thokozile Masipa warned the media to respect the ruling that images of witnesses who request privacy should not be shown. Masipa called the revelation "very disturbing."

"An investigation is to follow to find out exactly what is happening. This may just be the tip of the iceberg," said Masipa.

The witness, Michelle Burger, lives close to Pistorius' house and says she heard a woman screaming on the night Pistorius killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year, leading him to be charged with murder.

South African television station eNCA was broadcasting a live audio feed of university lecturer Michelle Burger's testimony Tuesday with a photograph of her, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said in court. He said the photo was captioned: "On the stand: Michelle Burger, Pistorius neighbor."

Nel said eNCA contacted the court clerk to ask if they could run a photograph of the witness that they had obtained from outside the court. The court said no, Nel said.

"They still went ahead and did it," the prosecutor said.

Nel said the outlet found the photo "somewhere else."

The development came less than 30 minutes into the day's proceedings when Nel interrupted Pistorius lawyer Barry Roux's cross-examination of Burger, saying he had just been informed that Burger's image was being shown on television.

The judge adjourned proceedings and Burger immediately left the room. When the judge returned after meeting with the two sides in her chambers, she ruled that there would be an investigation and instructed that no photographs may be shown in the media of any witness who requests privacy, regardless of the source.

"I am warning the media, if you do not behave, you are not going to be treated with soft gloves by this court," Judge Masipa said.

Another judge ruled last week that parts of Pistorius' blockbuster trial could be broadcast on live TV - in South Africa and around the world - but witnesses who request privacy, like Burger, would not be shown. An audio only feed of their testimony would then be broadcast.

The testimony of expert witnesses for the state and police officers can be on television, but witnesses for the state who request privacy as well as Pistorius and his defense witnesses won't be seen on television or in still images - unless they give their permission.

Burger, who lives about 177 meters (193 yards) from Pistorius' house, is the first witness to take the stand at the trial and has testified to a sequence of events on the night of Feb. 14 last year that contradicts the Olympian's story.

Burger says she heard a woman scream and a man shouting for help before the sound of gunshots on the night a year ago. Pistorius says he was the only person to shout after thinking there was a dangerous intruder inside his bathroom. He says he then shot his girlfriend through a toilet door by mistake.

For a second day, defense lawyer Roux sought to undercut the testimony of Burger, who wore a black suit and pink blouse.

Roux suggested the university lecturer was changing her story partly because she had not told police in a statement last year that she had heard screaming during the gunshots. Roux was also skeptical that she could hear fear and anxiety in the voice of a woman in a toilet cubicle with a closed door.

"I will invite the state to go and do a test" to see if the sound would carry, Roux said.

Burger stuck to her account, saying the area where she lives is tranquil and near a nature reserve, and that the windows of her house were open because there is no air conditioning.

"It's very quiet," she said. "Sound carries."

Prosecutor Nel objected to Roux's sometimes acerbic interrogation, saying it was repetitive. However, Judge Masipa allowed the questioning to proceed and warned Burger she would be "in that witness box" for a lot longer unless she gave direct answers.

"You don't give an explanation," Masipa said. "If the answer is yes, you say yes. If it's no, you say no. If you don't know, you say you don't know."


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1 March 04 2014 at 9:37 AM

This fellow is Guilty as hell. "How could anyone, either friend or foe, would shot at a person in his bathroom. This was a beautiful woman was getting ready to leave his tail. And, he didn't want her to leave and then shot her to death. "I know the african will put this idiot down.

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tom March 04 2014 at 9:41 AM

The CCW law here says you must make every effort to get away from a situation before you can shoot someone in "self defense", or be in fear for you life. I would say it was, argument in the room, he pulls a gun, she screams, runs into the bathroom, locks the door, he shoots through the door.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
3 replies
agdathome March 04 2014 at 1:04 PM

We all know he killed her. How stupid do people have to be. He shot through the door with no legs on. Check the angle of the bullets (dah).

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
imdaman177 agdathome March 04 2014 at 2:00 PM

hmmmm, hello he is NOT denying her shot her,.,.,,he claimed he thought she was a burglar.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
russell_montminy March 04 2014 at 9:53 AM

I think Mr. Pistorius is lying....he killed her after an argument. She must have said something to really upset him.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
wittlief March 04 2014 at 9:55 AM

when this whole charade is over
and the court finds him guilty of murder one
the judge should also convict him of contempt of court
for not pleading guilty on day one
and wasting everyones time and money.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
*Antje D & OMax* wittlief March 04 2014 at 7:22 PM


Flag Reply 0 rate up
IBruzEZ March 04 2014 at 10:10 AM

Read too many of his own press releases and thought he was invincible, could get away with anything.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
Mary March 04 2014 at 10:12 AM

Also, when you fear an intruder is in the bathroom (highly questionable), and your lover is in bed with you, perhaps sleeping, don't you look to her safety as well before picking up a gun. It doesn't fly.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
magcom2 March 04 2014 at 12:39 PM

I read that he took the time to put his legs on.......so if he was afraid there was someone locked in the bathroom, why didn't he just leave?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
Queen Cersei magcom2 March 04 2014 at 12:45 PM

Yeah, don't try to figure it out, he's 100% guilty. lol

Flag Reply 0 rate up
ural March 04 2014 at 1:02 PM

Why did he not check to see were his girlfriend was when he heard the noise in the bathroom? What was she doing in the bathroom that would cause him to scream and then fire his gun? Why didn't he just knock on the door or call her name? First rule of firing a gun, identify the target before you shoot.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
Hi, Patti ural March 04 2014 at 2:13 PM

Ural, that is true unless you live in Florida.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
harleybv Hi, Patti March 04 2014 at 2:25 PM

oh we leave the identification up to the police, after we hit the target here in Fla.

Flag 0 rate up
bort121 March 04 2014 at 12:29 PM

The news media messed up. They thought they could use an old picture, and that wouldn't be in violation of the law. However, the law was designed to keep the identity of a witnesses private to those not directly involved with thte case. The news media was plainly in the wrong. Take responsibility.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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