Oscar Pistorius, once a highly revered hero of the South African people, now fights for his life in and out of court. There’s an interesting dynamic in society that when someone is successful they have a huge following of those that want to bask in the other’s limelight; but when that same person falters, suddenly ghosts come out of the woodwork to help them fall faster. Oscar Pistorius’ fall from grace is no different.
The first double amputee to compete at the non-paralympics level, now faces murder charges in the 2013 death of his girlfriend, super-model Reeva Steenkamp. On Valentine’s Day Pistorius shot four bullets into a closed bathroom door killing Steenkamp within minutes. Oscar rose to international fame just six months before the fateful incident at his home in Pretoria, South Africa when he competed against able-bodied competitors at the London Summer Olympics in 2012.
Before Oscar Pistorius stepped into the courtroom, those who claimed have been part of the Pistorius “inner-circle” were racing to news outlets to share their experience of the “trip-switch” that was his real temperament. Prior to the 2013 incident, Pistorius was well-loved in his field, his community, and known for his international philanthropy dedicated to disabled children. One would have been hard pressed to find anyone who spoke poorly of the dedicated athlete before the February 2013 incident. Pistorius made more news in London from other athletes’ respect of his sportsmanship than his competitive prowess. Suddenly after this horrible and tragic situation suddenly anyone who ever shared the same oxygen with the athlete was racing for a camera to share their stories of criminal activity, abusive relationships, and a man filled with hate and vengeance.
Even as details of the incident change on a daily basis; opinions have already been solidified. Soon after the shooting the Pretoria police started releasing information about the case to news outlets before Oscar was even arraigned in court. This action caused protests of hundreds at the courthouse on the day after the shooting. The daily protests have grown in numbers over the last year forcing Pistorius into hiding at a secured unknown safe house somewhere in South Africa. Oscar Pistorius’ fall from grace has put into question the true aim of journalists worldwide.
Changes in how trials are reported over the last 20 years have caused a rise in individuals being convicted in the courts of public opinion before any facts are known. No longer does being found not guilty in court vindicate the accused. Even as the reporting of how events transpired have been debunked, sponsors are still pulling funds and leaving the athlete without the ability to make a livelihood. Event coordinators have pulled invitations to have the athlete compete at their competitions. Even gambling sites are offering odds for profit on a conviction. As he faces an already exhaustive trial we await his turn to take the stand so we can finally hear his side of the story. Till this point Oscar has remained silent yet the public has already sentenced him to life in prison.
This is a beyond horrible and a non-typical situation, but one begins to wonder why some judge so quickly before knowing the facts. One could ask if there is any hope for a comeback? Being weeks away from any decision that could put him behind actual bars, only time will tell if Oscar has any chance of recovery in his personal life if he is so fortunate to prove his innocence. As the world waits to see if he can indeed recover from his fall from grace.
Opinion by Kimberly Beller