Australian TV news airs Pistorius shooting 're-enactment'

PERTH/JOHANNESBURG Sun Jul 6, 2014 1:53pm EDT

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

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

Credit: Reuters/Werner Beukes/Pool

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PERTH/JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - An Australian current affairs television program on Sunday aired footage 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, Ramsay Webber Inc., said in a statement. They said no permission for the disclosure of the material had been given.

Channel 7 did not answer requests for a response.

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.

The Evidence Room did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Reuters could not determine the circumstances under which the video was obtained by Channel 7 and whether this was illegal or whether the Evidence Room was responsible for the tape being released.

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.

Channel 7's Sunday Night program showed double-amputee Pistorius, without his prosthetic legs, recreating his movements in the St. Valentine's Day incident last year.

At his murder trial, which opened in early March, Pistorius has said in his defense that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder in the toilet of his Pretoria home and killed her accidentally.

In the Sunday Night footage of the re-enactment, which Channel 7 said had not been presented in court or in public, he is seen dressed in dark blue shorts and a blue singlet moving forward with his right arm extended as though pointing a gun.

The Channel 7 footage also shows Pistorius demonstrating how he found Steenkamp slumped over the toilet after the shooting. With Pistorius' sister Aimee taking the place of Steenkamp in the re-enactment, the footage shows him dragging the body from the bathroom and carrying her down the stairs.

In another piece of footage, he is shown sitting on a dining room chair, putting on his prosthetics in 25.61 seconds.Channel 7 said the re-enactment footage was shot at Pistorius' uncle's house, "some months" after the shooting.

The court heard on Monday that the athlete was not suffering from a mental condition when he shot Steenkamp, meaning he had the ability to distinguish between the rightful or wrongful nature of his actions.

Pistorius' trial is due to resume on Monday.

(Reporting by Morag MacKinnon and Jane Wardell. Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard and Pascal Fletcher in Johannesburg.; Editing by Jane Wardell, Pascal Fletcher and Alexander Smith)

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