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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Oscar Pistorius Case: Another Frustrating Media Circus

On September 11, a verdict was handed down about South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, who, on Feb. 14, 2013, shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius was found not guilty of murder, but was convicted of “culpable homicide,” which in South Africa, is defined as "the unlawful negligent killing of a human being," not dissimilar to manslaughter. According to the New York Times, the sentence could result with up to 15 years in prison, but it’s likely the sentence will be light considering the history of that specific sentence. His sentence will be decided in slightly less than a month, on the October 13. 
Oscar Pistorius, on the surface, had the perfect life. Despite a double amputation of his lower legs as a child, he worked to overcome that setback and became a fantastic athlete. He was handsome, charismatic, had a beautiful girlfriend, and above all, he was a successful athlete. He even he carried South Africa’s flag in the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics. Pistorius won two gold medals and a silver in London, and performed similarly well in Athens and Beijing. His achievements earned him the nickname “Blade Runner,” after his blade-like prosthetics. Today, his name is forever tarnished by his actions.

Living in America, this type of case is hardly a new concept. The long, drawn-out, seemingly omnipresent coverage that South Africa seemed to receive reeked of the kind of sensationalist tabloid-esque coverage HLN likes to do. We had to deal with the controversy of the trials of Jodi Arias, O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, and the list goes on.

Now, all these events were awful, heartbreaking events. I do not wish to take a side on any of these cases because I am not an authority on the law in the United States, let alone in South Africa. All of these events were deeply regrettable regardless of any verdict.

The question we should ask ourselves is Why are these stories turned into something the whole country must know about? Doesn’t this type of coverage only amplify the extremely uncomfortable situation everyone directly related to the case is already in? What business do I have weighing in on a case that I have no connection to? This “armchair lawyer” syndrome that seems to be prevalent is not healthy, nor is it productive. It creates a court of public opinion that all too often influences justice systems. I don’t know if Oscar Pistorius deliberately killed his girlfriend. I don’t know if the verdict that was handed down is just or not. I suppose I can hope that it was correct and just but I will likely never know for sure. And this applies to any case like this, regardless of country.

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