Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial Kicks Off Amid Intense Media Coverage

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Oscar Pistorius

The court case against the South African Olympic athlete, which will be partly televised and has been dubbed "The Oscar Show" by a local paper, started with a delay due to an "overwhelmed" interpreter.

A different Oscar was at the center of media attention in South Africa Monday morning just hours after the 86th annual Academy Awards ceremony ended in Los Angeles Sunday night.

South African Paralympics star Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee known as the "Blade Runner" and accused of the premeditated murder of his girlfriend, model and reality TV star Reeva Steenkamp, 29, last year, arrived in court for the Monday start of his trial in Pretoria.

The 27-year-old Pistorius won gold at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and also competed at the Summer Olympics. He is charged with first-degree murder but has said that he believed Steenkamp was an intruder and that he shot her by accident.

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Media reported that the trial started after a delay of about 90 minutes. The BBC explained that an "overwhelmed" interpreter for the court in the multilingual country was the reason for the delay. Sky News reported that the interpreter "arrived at court, saw the melee, burst into tears and said she couldn't do it."

The trial, attended by Steenkamp's mother, June Steenkamp, started with the charges against Pistorius being read out and his team reiterating his not guilty plea. Then, the first witnesses were called.

The case has drawn South African and international media attention, with the BBC, for example, reporting from the first trial day, including live audio and video on its website. The South African paper The Citizen has called the trial "The Oscar Show."

Local reports said that 80 journalists have been granted access to the courtroom – 40 of them representing South African media outlets, with another 40 journalists from foreign media organizations. An additional 200 journalists have access to an "overspill" room outside the courtroom.

The BBC reported that Pistorius' brother, Carl, had to fight his way through a media scrum to get into court.

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A South African high court judge had ruled that parts of the murder trial could be televised live. Outlining how pictures and audio can be used during the trial, judge Dunstan Mlambo said that three remote-controlled cameras would be installed in the courtroom, with no camera people allowed. Two still cameras are also allowed in the courtroom.

There will be no televised coverage of Pistorius' testimony or of the appearances of his defense witnesses. Witnesses can also withhold permission for their evidence to be broadcast.

The judge also ruled that the entire trial could be broadcast on the radio. Pistorius' lawyers had argued that televising the proceedings would compromise his right to a fair trial.

The trial is scheduled to take three weeks, but observers have said it could end up taking longer.

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai



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