Oscar footage might result in mistrial - expert

2014-07-06 21:02
Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock during his ongoing murder trial in Pretoria. (Thobile Mathonsi, AFP)

Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock during his ongoing murder trial in Pretoria. (Thobile Mathonsi, AFP)

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Pretoria - Oscar Pistorius is walking on his stumps and appearing to aim a pistol in footage broadcast Sunday that shows the Paralympic gold medallist at his most vulnerable in a shock reenactment of the night he shot his girlfriend.

Lawyers for the athlete said the video, which emerged the week his trial resumed for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, was commissioned by his defence team and obtained illegally.

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

"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.

"Whatever you tell your attorney is strictly confidential and privileged, if there's a breach of that, there can be a mistrial," said Tuson.

"If there is a failure of justice, that's the end of the trial."

In the footage aired by Australia's Channel 7 the double-amputee is seen crossing a room on his bare stumps, wearing a tank top and tight black shorts, his hand clenched in the air as if ready to fire a gun.

"I wasn't sure if someone was going to come up and point a firearm at me," says the star sprinter at one point.

The 27-year-old is seen screaming and crying for help, and carrying his younger sister Aimee down a flight of stairs, as he acts out his account of the minutes after he shot Steenkamp.

The video was made by the Evidence Room, a US company based in Cleveland, Ohio, that specialises in forensic animation.

The Evidence Room was hired by the defence team in October 2013 to digitally depict the sequence of events early on Valentine's Day last year, when Pistorius shot his girlfriend four times through a locked toilet door.

The animation firm used the footage of Pistorius moving on his stumps in order to reimagine the crime scene in an animated format.

Brian Webber, a lawyer representing Pistorius, said in a statement the video was "obtained illegally and in breach of the non-disclosure agreement with The Evidence Room."

"Channel 7 purchased this footage unlawfully," said Burgess, adding that the broadcaster had agreed not to air the material until the end of the trial.

"Whilst we cannot imagine how any of the footage would not support Oscar's version, we will only be in a position to comment further once we have had the opportunity to study what has been aired," he said.

'Vote'

Australia's Channel 7, which did not say how it obtained the film, invited viewers to "vote" on the murder case in light of the new footage.

Fifty-three percent concluded that Pistorius was guilty, and 47 percent that he was innocent.

Legal observers say it is now unlikely that the prosecution will be able to introduce the video as evidence when the trial resumes on Monday.

Pistorius, known as the "Blade Runner" for his prosthetic limbs, has been charged with murdering Steenkamp after a row early on the morning of 14 February 2013.

The sprinter claims he mistakenly shot the 29-year-old model and law graduate through a locked door, believing she was an intruder in his upmarket Pretoria home.

During the five months of trial, the defence has sought to portray the double-amputee as obsessed with safety, a result of a difficult childhood and his disability, factors which they argue explain his reaction that day.

If found guilty of premeditated murder, Pistorius faces up to 25 years in jail.

Read more on:    reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  pretoria  |  pistorius trial
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