'Blade Runner's' murder trial shaping up as reality TV circus

The 'Blade Runner's' murder trial doesn't begin until Monday, but it has already taken on a social-media-meets-reality-TV flavor that has many South Africans cringing.

With wall-to-wall 24-hour broadcasts of activity from within the court, critics warn a serious and shocking murder trial, where a beautiful young woman was killed, is being turned into entertainment for fans of the macabre. Oscar Pistorius will become the ultimate reality TV star, leading one wag to say courtroom coverage should be dubbed: "Keeping up with the Pistoriuses."

“This is Africa’s OJ Simpson trial,” one South African told FoxNews.com

Indeed, it is hard not to draw comparisons with Simpson's trial nearly two decades ago. There are glamorous celebrities and paparazzi, and one of Simpson’s defense attorneys, the media-savvy Robert Shapiro, recently signed on to provide commentary for a 24-hour TV channel dedicated to the trial.

Tweeting, filing, phoning and filming journalists are all descending on South Africa this weekend in readiness for what’s dubbed as “The African Trial of the Century.” Some 3,000 journalists applied for the 80 media spaces in court, approximately 2,000 more reporters than attended events around Nelson Mandela’s passing.


And in addition to the double amputee track star, the iPhone, What’s App and Twitter are also on trial in a case that spans the globe. In Apple’s secretive California headquarters, the top South African police detective and two of his colleagues are trying to pry secrets from the 'Blade Runner’s' cellphone.

Pistorius claims he has forgotten the PIN code to access what evidence may be on an iPhone found at his home after he shot his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, killing her on Valentine’s Day last year. His defense team says he thought she was an intruder.

Sources say detectives believe the phone may contain ‘crucial evidence,’ through messages and What’s App texts, the numbers of who he called at the time of the shooting, and even possibly information he could have tried to delete on the phone.

Foxnews.com has learned that in all probability, an Apple technician could accompany evidence on the trip back to South Africa. Llewellyn Curlewis, the president of the Northern Provinces of the Law Society of South Africa, a renowned legal expert and himself a lawyer who practices in the Pretoria courts where Pistorius is being tried, expects that a senior Apple security technician will be subpoenaed to come and testify as a prosecution witness.

“Probably an Apple expert will have to come to South Africa to the court to verify the evidence, and lay foundation for introducing it in court,” he said.

Anything gleaned from the iPhone will have to be shared with the defense, too, Curlewis told FoxNews.com. "The defense must be given a copy of the evidence before it is introduced,” he said, adding this is so the defense can call their own expert witnesses over any information from the iPhone.

Twitter has come under attack in court here during arguments over whether the trial should be broadcast live. It’s thought that the judge was partly swayed to grant the request by the argument that reporting a case accurately is not possible in 140 characters.

But the attorney didn’t stop there – he pointed out that anyone can tweet whatever they feel like, whether it is fact or not,whereas when you can see the actual person talking in court on television it is much harder to misinterpret what they are saying. Not surprisingly, this point didn’t exactly light up the twittersphere.

But now Pistorius’s PR team has turned to Twitter to try and get some positive thoughts about their client out there. @OscarHardTruth, promising to “provide the hard truth as it unfolds,”already has more than 25,000 followers for a site full of predictably favorable comments, such as “truth shall prevail. Innocent until proven guilty.”

The 'Blade Runner’' brother,Carl Pistorius, took to his Twitter site,@CarlPistorius, to pose a question which isn’t typical Twitter fare but is certainly topical: “Tweeps what’s your take? Apple or Windows operating application and data security?” and then followed it with, “Apple has always been renowned 4 PC operating and application system security, as well as data security.”. I guess we’ll find out whether he’s right or not when the detectives get back from California.

Meanwhile preview trailers run by the channel Shapiro will appear on make fictional soaps look drab:

“A love affair ends in tragedy. Love on trial,” says one. “ Watch, post, like, tweet, The Oscar Pistorius Trial, starts the 2nd of March at 8pm.”

Paul Tilsley is a freelance correspondent and producer for Fox News, and is scheduled to be a commentator on the trial on the Oscar Pistorius TV Channel. Follow him on @PaulTilsley