Pistorius trial: Masipa's decision 'unusual'

The judge has prohibited publication of heads of argument until they're disclosed in court.

Oscar Pistorius leaves court with his brother Carl Pistorius after the athlete's defence team wrapped up its case on 8 July. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

PRETORIA - The decision by Judge Thokozile Masipa to prohibit the publication of heads of argument in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial until they're disclosed in court has been described as extraordinary.

After the defence closed its case yesterday, the state brought an application to prevent the media reporting on the documents after they're filed in court.

The double amputee is accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his upmarket Pretoria East home on Valentine's Day last year.

The 27-year-old athlete maintains he shot the 29-year-old by accident, believing she was an intruder.

Pistorius also faces gun-related charges in connection with two separate shooting incidents, one from a moving car and another at a crowded Johannesburg north restaurant.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges on the first day of his murder trial on 3 March.

Media Lawyer Dario Milo says usually, once the heads of argument are filed in a court, they become accessible to the public and the media, making Masipa's order unusual.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel cited previous incidences where documents were linked to the media.

"It's my respectful view that where we argue matters, that they should not be argued in the public domain but should be argued in court. It is important that whatever happens during the argument should be published but not before the time."

Masipa granted the order and went as far as referring to reporters who possessed leaked documents as thieves.

"The written heads can only be published when the arguments start in court."

The Pretoria court ordered the state submit its written heads of argument on 30 July while the defence is required to file its documents five days later.

Closing arguments will start on 7 August.

DEFENCE, STATE PREPARE CLOSING ARGUMENTS

The defence closed its case after calling 16 witnesses, which included the athlete himself, neighbours, and people he worked with.

The defence will probably concentrate on the timeline to show that the screams neighbours heard were in fact the athlete's.

Advocate Barry Roux will also try and show that as a disabled person, the athlete is anxious and vulnerable.

At the same time, Nel is likely to focus on Pistorius's neighbour who heard a woman's blood-curdling screams on the night in question.

He is also likely to cite evidence about the food found in Steenkamp's stomach and the angry exchange of intimate text messages between the two.

For live audio and updates from the trial, go to EWN's live blog and for more background, visit EWN's Oscar Pistorius portal.