Pistorius Trial Interrupted After Privacy Of Witness Breached By Media

Day two of Reeva Steenkamp’s murder trial was interrupted when witness Michelle Burger’s photo was broadcast by a South African TV channel.

1. The second day of Reeva Steenkamp’s murder trial was dramatically interrupted by Judge Thokozile Masipa when it was revealed witness Michelle Burger’s photograph was broadcast by South African TV channel eNCA.

Pool / Reuters

Burger’s photograph being aired went directly against a court order that guaranteed privacy to witnesses who requested it.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court eNCA was broadcasting a live audio feed of Burger’s testimony accompanied by a photograph of her with the caption: “On the stand: Michelle Burger, Pistorius neighbor.”

Nel also said that eNCA contacted the court clerk to ask permission to use the photo, and despite being told no, Nel said, “They still went ahead and did it.”

2. Judge Thokozile Masipa called the breach of privacy “very disturbing” and warned the media to respect the ruling.

Pool / Reuters

“An investigation is to follow to find out exactly what is happening. This may just be the tip of the iceberg,” Masipa told the court. She added, “I am warning the media, if you do not behave, you are not going to be treated with soft gloves by this court.”

3. The interruption occurred during Pistorius’ lawyer Barry Roux’s tense cross-examination of Burger.

Pool / Reuters

Burger told the court on Monday that she heard “terrible screams” coming from Pistorius’ house on the night Steenkamp was killed.

On Tuesday’s cross-examination Roux tried to discredit Burger’s testimony and said:

“We will debate the sequence of the bullets. We will have experts state that there was serious brain damage after the shot to the head, that it would not have been possible for her to scream at all.”

Burger replied by saying: “As I said yesterday, I heard her voice just after the last shot. It could have been that it was as the last shot was fired.”

4. At one point Burger was asked the same question eight times by Roux, “I’m going to be really slow this time. You heard at the bail application that it was put on behalf of Mr. Pistorius that Reeva did not scream that night, is that correct?”

Pool / Reuters

Judge Masipa insisted Burger give a clear answer, and she eventually admitted she had heard Pistorius’ claims in the the media.

Roux responded by saying: “You’ve watched Sky News, you’ve watched other channels, and you’ve got retrospective knowledge and you take that knowledge and you come and give evidence today as if it’s the knowledge of that fateful evening.”

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