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Oscar Pistorius murder trial may be partly televised, judge rules

By Laura Smith-Spark and Robyn Curnow, CNN
updated 8:59 AM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • High court judge rules that Oscar Pistorius' murder trial can be televised in part
  • Pistorius goes on trial on Monday, accused in the death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
  • Judge says TV cameras won't be allowed to film testimony of Pistorius and defense witnesses
  • But he allows live audio recording of the entire trial and televising of some parts

Johannesburg (CNN) -- A South African high court ruled Tuesday that cameras will be allowed in court for part of athlete Oscar Pistorius' trial in the killing of his girlfriend.

Judge Dunstan Mlambo in Pretoria High Court delivered his ruling -- which will put cameras in a criminal trial for the first time in South Africa -- in response to several local media broadcasters' applications to broadcast the trial live.

Pistorius goes on trial on March 3, accused of murdering his girlfriend, model and law school graduate Reeva Steenkamp, just over a year ago.

The double amputee Olympic star does not deny killing Steenkamp, but he says he mistook her for a home invader when he shot her in the bathroom of his upscale home in Pretoria.

One year since Pistorius shooting
Last photos of Pistorius and lover

In his ruling, Mlambo said the question of whether the trial should be televised shows the conflict between the right of the accused to a fair trial and the right to freedom of expression for the media and the principle of open justice.

To balance those interests, the judge said Pistorius and defense witnesses, as well as prosecution witnesses who choose not to give consent, should not be filmed by TV cameras as they testify. He also placed some limitations on still photography.

However, the prosecution and defense opening statements and closing arguments, police evidence and experts' testimony can be broadcast on TV, Mlambo said, and live audio recording for radio broadcast will be permitted for the whole trial.

"The justice system is still perceived as treating the rich and famous with kid gloves whilst being harsh on the poor and vulnerable," the judge said.

"Enabling a larger South African society to follow first-hand the criminal proceedings which involve a celebrity, so to speak, will go a long way into dispelling these negative and unfounded perceptions about the justice system, and will inform and educate society regarding the conduct of criminal proceedings."

Pistorius' legal team had argued that some witnesses would be inhibited and potentially traumatized by intrusive filming as they gave their testimony. The legal team for Steenkamp's family also said it did not want the trial televised.

Since being freed on bail, Pistorius has remained largely out of the spotlight. He released a statement on the anniversary of Steenkamp's death, saying he would carry the "complete trauma" of the day forever.

"No words can adequately capture my feelings about the devastating accident that has caused such heartache for everyone who truly loved -- and continues to love Reeva," he said on his website.

Steenkamp's family members, including her mother, have said they will attend the trial. It will be the first time they will face their daughter's boyfriend in court.

READ: Oscar Pistorius looks back a year after killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

READ: Intimate photos show Oscar Pistorius, Reeva Steenkamp before her death

READ: Who is 'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius?

CNN's Robyn Curnow reported from Johannesburg, and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London. CNN's Kim Norgaard contributed to this report.

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