When Pistorius appeared in court on June 4, his case was postponed to August 19 for further investigations. The Pretoria Magistrate’s Court was packed with journalists, who started arriving at 5AM. There was pushing and shoving to gain entry into the court building. Ten seats were reserved for the families of the accused and deceased.
Pistorius and his family were met by a large crowd of media outside the court house. Pistorius was wearing a charcoal gray suit with a blue shirt and tie, as he took his seat in the dock. The Blade Runner, as he is known, turned his back on photographers as he was greeted by his brother Carl, sister Aimee and uncle Arnold, before the proceedings. A clean shaven Pistorius spent the proceedings standing up.
It was a short court appearance, where the state asked the court for the matter to be postponed to August to complete the investigation. The docket is still with police. Pistorius’ legal team, led by Advocate Barry Roux, did not oppose the postponement for the appearance that will fall on the day Steenkamp would have turned 30.
After the appearance, when asked why the date of the postponement fell on Steenkamp’s birthday, Medupe Simasiku of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said: “The date was an agreement between the two parties but we were not aware it was the deceased’s birthday. We are satisfied with the progress of the investigation and everything that has been done. We want to see this case going forward fair and square,” he says.
Simasiku says that they are hoping to have the docket in their possession before August 19. But legal experts say the case will be postponed once again, most likely, as the defense team would not have had enough time to study the docket to prepare their case.
Law expert, Advocate Percy Tshabalala, who is not involved in the case, says that once the investigations are concluded, the matter has to be set down and a trial date agreed on.
“The matter will probably be postponed for a trial date and this will give the defence time to prepare. From there, he [Pistorius] will have to plead and then the case will be under way,” says Tshabalala.
It has been established that the delay is due to outstanding forensic results. Police are still to give a report on the forensic analysis of the toilet door through which Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend. The door is being studied to establish the trajectory of the bullets Pistorius fired, which would indicate where he was standing and whether he was wearing his prosthesis.
After being told the matter was postponed, by acting chief magistrate Daniel Thulare, Pistorius softly replied: “Yes your honor”.
After telling Pistorius of the postponement, Thulare took a swipe at the media. This was brought on by graphic photographs of the crime scene, shown by British satellite news channel SkyNews.
Thulare warned against what he referred to as “scandalous and possibly contemptuous” reporting and trial by the media. The photographs showed the bullet holes and blood-spattered bathroom, where Pistorius shot Steenkamp. Thulare asked the state to investigate how information related to the case had come into the public domain. He says this kind of reporting can hinder judicial processes.
“Anyone who has information that might assist at arriving at decision must approach the NPA. It is important that we rally behind the call. It is important that we invite our colleagues from around the world to respect the republic’s processes,” says Thulare.
Pistorius’ family has also lambasted the publishing of the photographs. In a statement on his website, the family says: “We were shaken by the graphic images, leaked into the public domain this week, of the accident scene at Oscar’s house. It has always been our plea that the legal process be allowed [to] run its course with integrity. The leaking of evidential material into the public domain, before the court case, does not advance this process. We continue to have great faith in the South African legal justice system and believe that Oscar’s account of what happened on that terrible night in February will be borne out by the evidence that the defence team will lead in court”.
Pistorius, who is arguably South Africa’s best-known athlete, enjoys support from all over the world. Messages flood his website.
“I felt deeply saddened by the images that appeared today of Oscar entering the court room and not being left alone. He could hardly get to the building. Oscar, please believe that there are those of us who truly believe in you and I will continue to pray for you. My support will not waiver. Oscar I know that the courts, in the end, will do the right thing. Stay strong Oscar and don’t ever forget that you are a good man with a good heart, who made a terrible mistake. Lots of prayers are coming your way,” wrote one supporter.