Pistorius vomits during autopsy testimony

Pistorius vomits during autopsy testimony

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius is pictured during a hearing on the sixth day of his trial for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend, on March 10, 2014 at the high court in Pretoria. Pistorius, a double amputee known as the "Blade Runner" for his carbon-fibre running blades, faces 25 years in South Africa's brutal jails and an abrupt end to his glittering sporting career if convicted for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. AFP PHOTO POOL/Siphiwe Sibeko (Photo credit should read SIPHIWE SIBEKO/AFP/Getty Images)

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by Associated Press

kgw.com

Posted on March 10, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Updated Monday, Mar 10 at 1:08 PM

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) - The judge in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius on Monday banned live broadcasting and tweeting of the graphic testimony of the expert who conducted the autopsy on Reeva Steenkamp, who was fatally shot by her athlete boyfriend.

The court heard arguments about whether to allow audio and video broadcasting of the testimony of Prof. Gert Saayman, head of the forensic medicine department at the University of Pretoria.

As the graphic evidence was read out in court, Pistorius appeared to vomit.

Pistorius' body jerked and he retched as he heard the pathologist's evidence, the BBC reported.

A bucket was placed next to him and after breaking into tears several times, the judge briefly stopped the testimony, the BBC reporterd.

Saayman stood for much of his time on the stand, referring to photographs that were not shown to the gallery as he described bullet wounds on Steenkamp's body, one to the right side of the head, one to the right arm and one to the right hip area.

He also described exit wounds caused by the bullets and other abrasions and discoloration of the skin, consistent with the impact of a bullet fired through a wooden object such as a door.

There was another wound on one of Steenkamp's hands, Saayman said. Steenkamp, a model and personality on a television reality show, was wearing a pair of sports shorts with a Nike logo and a black vest when she was shot, he said.

The court heard arguments about whether to allow audio and video broadcasting of the testimony of Prof. Gert Saayman, head of the forensic medicine department at the University of Pretoria.

Judge Thokozile Masipa announced the ban after prosecutor Gerrie Nel, supported by chief defense lawyer Barry Roux, said Saayman's testimony would have an "explicitly graphic nature" and should not be shown around the world.

"It's not a question of press freedom," Nel said.

Before beginning his testimony, Saayman said the "very personal nature" of his autopsy findings as well as graphic details about the injuries could "compromise the dignity of the deceased," as well as harm her friends and family, if they are broadcast.

"It goes against the good morals of society for us to make information of this nature available" in a way that children and other unsuspecting people might be exposed, Saayman said in the witness box.

Proceedings can be partly televised and the audio can be broadcast in its entirety under a judge's pre-trial order that sought to balance the right to a fair trial with the intense public interest in the Pistorius case and the principle of open justice. Under the order, some witnesses can choose not to be shown on television.

Earlier Monday, Masipa extended that order, saying "private witnesses are more vulnerable than public figures" and that still photographs of witnesses who requested some discretion cannot be published or disseminated for the duration of the trial, even if they were obtained from sources outside the courtroom.

The new ruling followed the publication in a South African media outlet last week of a photo of a witness whose image was lifted from a publicly accessible website.

Pistorius, the first amputee to run in the Olympics, is charged with premeditated murder for Steenkamp's shooting death. The 27-year-old Pistorius says the killing was accidental because he thought his girlfriend was a dangerous intruder in a toilet cubicle in his home.

Before the adjournment Monday, a security guard who said he spoke with Pistorius soon after the shooting of Steenkamp was questioned by the defense about his recollection of the sequences of the events that night.

The sequence is important for the defense because, if it can prove that Pistorius called security first, it could support the contention that he was seeking help as quickly as possible.

The guard, Pieter Baba, had recalled a conversation with the double-amputee runner, who killed Steenkamp in his home in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year. Baba testified Friday that he called Pistorius and was told "everything is fine" on the telephone. Baba said Pistorius then called him back moments later, didn't speak, was crying and the second call then ended.

Baba said he was responding to neighbors' reports of gunshots coming from Pistorius' home after 3 a.m. on Feb. 14, 2013. He drove with a fellow guard to Pistorius' villa and made the call from outside the house.

Baba's statement that he called Pistorius first could back the prosecution's case that the killing was premeditated, and that Pistorius was trying, at least initially, to conceal what he had done.

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