Australian TV news airs Pistorius shooting 're-enactment'

Mon Jul 7, 2014 12:35am EDT
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PERTH/JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - An Australian current affairs television program aired footage on Sunday of a re-enactment by Olympic and Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius of the shooting of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

With Pistorius' murder trial still underway in South Africa, the family lawyers of the accused athlete said the "visual mapping" re-enactment was for trial preparation only and they alleged it had been "obtained illegally" by Australia's Channel 7, which ran the video on its Sunday Night program.

"For the family, the airing of this footage constitutes a staggering breach of trust and an invasion of the family's privacy," the Pistorius family lawyers, Brian Webber, Ram say Webber Inc., said in a statement. They said no permission for the disclosure of the material had been given.

Pistorius' lawyers alleged the usage of the video filmed by a U.S. company specializing in forensic animation, The Evidence Room, which had been engaged by Pistorius' defense team, also breached a non-disclosure agreement made with the Cleveland, Ohio company.

On Monday, Channel 7 declined to respond to questions from Reuters about how and from whom it had obtained the footage, but said the report was a "significant investigation" by award-winning journalists.

"We would not have run the footage if we thought we had obtained it illegally," the network said in a statement emailed to Reuters. "The story was run in Australia only and not made available in any other territory."

The Evidence Room did not reply to requests for comment.

One legal expert in Johannesburg, Professor Stephen Tuson of the Wits School of Law, said the screening of the re-enactment footage could be a breach of sub-judice laws that prohibit the publication outside the courtroom of evidence or material that could influence the outcome of the trial.

"If this was done in preparation for the trial in the context of attorney-client confidentiality, it would be privileged and its publication would be a breach of the sub-judice rule. Its consequences could be a reviewable irregularity," Tuson said.   Continued...

South African Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius arrives in court for his trial in Pretoria July 2, 2014.  REUTERS/Werner Beukes/Pool