Oscar Pistorius Trial Halted Over Media LeakBy: Toni Matthews-El - March 4, 2014
The already tumultuous Oscar Pistorius case saw the drama level rise even higher, and just two days into the internationally-monitored trial.
Judge Thokozile Masipa ordered an investigation on Tuesday into how the first witness’s name leaked to the public despite a court order.
The witness whom we now know as Michelle Burger was a neighbor that had testified during the first day of the trial that she heard screaming and gunshots. Burger had requested that her identity not be shared by media outlets with the public in an attempt to maintain her privacy.
South African television station eNCA had shared an audio of her testimony in addition to a photograph identifying Burger by name as the witness testifying.
The act was in blatant violation of a court order that the demanded the media respect the privacy of all witnesses who request that their identities remain anonymous.
Masipa called the violation “disturbing” and warned members of the media to respect the requests of witnesses who have asked that their images and identity not be shared publicly.
The interruption came thirty minutes into the second day of the trial, as Pistorius lawyer Barry Roux was cross-examining Burger. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel announced to the court that he had been made aware that Burger’s identity had been broadcast by eNCA.
According to Nel, the station had asked the court if they could run an image of the witness. Despite being flat out denied their request, the station went with the story anyway.
Masipa adjourned the proceedings and met with both the prosecution and defense in chambers. When they returned, she said that there would be an investigation into the media leak. She also made it clear the media members present that no photographs of witnesses who desire privacy were to be shown. The source of the information was irrelevant.
Said Masipa, “I am warning the media, if you do not behave, you are not going to be treated with soft gloves by this court.”
An audio feed of their testimony was still allowed, they simply could not be identified if that was their request.
Image via YouTube