Impatient readers, insomniacs and serious journalists were bombarding Twitter with comments and news reports about Blade Runner Oscar Pistorius on Wednesday.
The case took an even more bizarre turn Thursday when the bail hearing was suspended. Local media reported chief investigator Hilton Botha himself was facing charges for firing out a runaway minibus.
It would be seen as yet another parallel with the O.J. Simpson case, with Botha becoming the Mark Fuhrman of the investigation. Fuhrman’s alleged racist attitudes were believe to have contributed to Simpson’s acquittal.
But the Women’s League of the African National Congress could hardly be considered racist.
It released a statement: “The ANCWL is calling for an explanation as to why Oscar Pistorious is getting special treatment by being allowed to stay in the Brooklyn Police Station holding cells as opposed to Central Prison or Newlock like all other awaiting trial or awaiting bail prisoners.”
The top hashtags were #Pistorius and #Steenkamp, the latter the last name of the woman the Olympic athlete shot and killed in his upscale home in a gated community.
Some would say it had become "Trial by Twitter." Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported Pistorius had applied for firearm licenses for six more guns before the shooting death. The AP said official records confirmed the applications.
At least a dozen journalists, including from the New York Times, were reporting on what was being said in the Pretoria, South Africa courtroom where his bail hearing was being held.
It was beginning to look like it would take more than the Chewbaca defense to persuade the judge to grant Pistorius bail.
Investigator Botha said it was feared Pistorius, who has a property abroad and millions in offshore bank accounts, might flee the country like Bristol businessman Shrien Dewani. South Africa has been unable to persuade British authorities to extradite Dewani on charges that he arranged to have his wife murdered on their honeymoon. There were also questions about whether Pistorius might seek to influence or intimidate witnesses if he were freed.
That was after the prosecution presented evidence that there was a loud argument before Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp, allegedly because he confused her for a burglar.
There also was evidence that the first disabled athlete to compete against the able-bodied in an Olympic running event had offshore bank accounts, and thus could flee the country if granted bail.
And it turned out that the toilet Steenkamp was in when she was shot dead was a small separate room for a toilet inside a bathroom. And it was reported steroids were found in his home.
In any case, South African trials are conducted by judges, not juries, so great lawyering wouldn't necessarily help.
The defense, according to Tweets, got the police investigator to admit the woman who heard screams got the number of shots fired wrong, and lived 600 meters (1,800 feet away). The defense also denied steroids were found, saying the substances were herbs.
IOL Sport reported the International Paralympic Games Committee, reacting to the steroid claims, said Pistorius had been tested twice during the London Olympics and no illegal drugs were found. Lance Armstrong has made it clear that drug testers can be fooled.
News organizations will have to decide at the end of the day whether they want to have their reporters so involved on Twitter. It shows what goes into making stories, sort of like showing what goes into making sausage.
The New York Times publishes a list of its reporters’ Twitter usernames, and at least in some cases the reporters are tweeting what they are seeing while covering stories.
The hearing adjourned just before 3 p.m. local time, 8 a.m. New York time, after Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair read the reasons bail may be denied. The bail hearing was scheduled to resume Thursday morning.
Nair ruled Tuesday that the murder case against Pistorius is so serious bail can only be granted under special circumstances. The magistrate questioned on Wednesday whether Pistorius would flee if granted bail, given how widely known he is internationally, the Daily Telegraph reported. Flight is not the only issue. Also to be considered is whether a defendant might seek to influence or even threaten witnesses.