UK & World News

  • 10 April 2014, 8:05

Oscar Pistorius: The Virtual Judge And Jury

A single judge will ultimately decide Oscar Pistorius's fate, but out in the realm of social media there is a vast "virtual jury" following every moment of the televised trial.

Instant verdicts are being posted every second in cyberspace and the fierce cross-examination of the athlete in the witness box has provoked the biggest reaction yet.

"I can't believe they just showed that, that is too much," was just one of many outraged tweets after the screening in court - and on TV - of a graphic picture of Reeva Steenkamp's head wound.

Moments earlier, prosecutor Gerrie Nel had shown a video obtained by Sky News of Pistorius at a gun range blasting apart a watermelon and urged the athlete to make the connection between the two.

As Pistorius wept in the witness box, refusing to stare at the grisly image on the TV screen in front of him, the debate over Mr Nel's tactics raged on.

"Oh no, poor Oscar, I can't believe he has to see this," was typical of the reactions of those who felt sympathy for the athlete. "What is wrong with Gerrie Nel? He is heartless," was another response on a South African-run Facebook page dedicated to following the trial.

But many of those tweeting and posting declared it was justified to show the effects of the bullets fired by Pistorius and that Mr Nel was "doing his job" and trying to "do his best for Reeva".

"Seeing the graphic picture of Reeva's head just made this case real for me," another South African tweeted.

The social media chatter is far from a scientific poll of how the trial is going, with many of those posting comments apparently determined to stick to their opinions of Pistorius's innocence or guilt regardless of the flow of evidence in court.

What is more interesting is the perception of the "fairness" or otherwise of the proceedings and the assessment of the skills of the key players.

During the prosecution evidence, when the athlete's defence advocate Barry Roux was leading aggressive cross examinations, his abilities were widely admired and even joked about on spoof namesake Twitter accounts. Now the attention has switched to the equally combative GerrieNel.

Even Judge Thokozile Masipa has not been immune to the stream of comment, with some tweeters trying to detect even a hint of the way she might be leaning by the tone and timing of her interventions in court. She is above being influenced by the verdicts of the "virtual jury" but the #OscarPistorius trial will probably continue long after her own ruling comes.

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