South Africa and the rest of the world waited for more than a year to see Oscar Pistorius stand trial for the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The long and anxious wait ended on Monday when live broadcasts brought the proceedings in court to the public arena.
Oscar Pistorius pleaded ‘not guilty’ inside the North Gauteng High Court in front of his family, the Steenkamps and accredited media personnel. He is accused of intentionally shooting and killing Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius maintains that though he did shoot Steenkamp on the morning of Valentine’s Day last year, he had been certain that he was protecting his home from an intruder.
Audiovisual means were employed to tell the story to viewers who watched on television as well on the internet. To protect witnesses, the media may only show visuals of some parts of the trial and audio accounts of others.
Cameras flicked away mercilessly outside the court to capture the arrivals of key individuals. Inside the court, the families of the accused and the deceased shared a bench and tensions were obvious. The first witness was Michelle Burger who heard shots from the Silverwoods Country Estates where Pistorius lived and where the fatal shooting took place. She testified about the gunshots and screams she heard from her home which is more than 100m from the Pistorius residence.
Defence lawyer Barry Roux grilled Burger about the sounds she heard and raised the likelihood that she couldn’t be certain what the sounds were. Roux laid out the possibility that a cricket bat bashing against a door may sound like a gunshot. Though she was indeed not certain about other details pertaining to the incident, Burger was unwavering in her testimony that what she heard on Valentine’s Day morning last year was a woman screaming for help and several gunshots thereafter.
Barry Roux explained that it was possible that the screams Burger heard were the high-pitched screams of Oscar Pistorius. To this, Burger replied that she had never heard Pistorius scream and therefore cannot say anything other than that she heard a woman scream.
The court session came to an end at the instruction of trial judge Thokozile Masipa. Pistorius left the court amidst a curious crowd of cameramen and some members of the public who made it necessary for police to facilitate the exit of the gold vehicle in which the accused was travelling in. Court will resume on Tuesday morning when Roux continues to defend paralympian Oscar Pistorius in his murder trial.