Video cameras were set up in courtroom 1 at the Western Cape High Court on Monday as the trial against murder accused Henri van Breda resumed after an almost two-month break.
The 22-year-old is accused of murdering his parents and older brother with an axe at their family home on the upmarket security estate de Zalze in Stellenbosch in January 2015. His sister, Marli, who was 16 years old at the time, survived the attack.
Judge Siraj Desai earlier this year said he did not object to the filming of court proceedings after Media24 brought an application to be allowed to livestream the case. Both the state and the defence were opposed to livestreaming, however, and approached the Supreme Court of Appeal.
The SCA set aside Desai’s initial order and referred it back to him, giving him a guideline or set of principles to refer to.
Essentially, it ruled that the default position must be that media must be allowed to stream, unless there is an objection. Desai made an order on August 3 that media be allowed to livestream court proceedings, unless there was an objection from a particular witness, the defence or the prosecution.
The prosecution objected to the livestreaming of the first witness to take the stand on Monday. Lieutenant-Colonel Sharlene Otto, the chief forensic analyst at the police’s forensic laboratory, will testify about standard operating procedures.
Senior state prosecutor Susan Galloway said these needed to remain confidential. Judge Desai ordered the cameras to stop recording during her testimony.
Otto began by explaining to the court what DNA is: “DNA is the molecule of life.”
“It governs every single characteristic you have as human beings. For a specific person the DNA is the same from the hair roots to the toe nails. We have our DNA profile from the day of conception and it stays the same until the day we die. Each and every person’s DNA is made up of fifty percent from the mother and fifty percent from the father.”
She told the court DNA analysts were not told that cases DNA samples came from, but instead worked “completely objectively and blindly”.
Otto is expected to detail the results of the DNA analysis of swabs and exhibits taken from the crime scene.