While we are waiting for the Pistorius trial to begin, there are some things to ponder. Foremost is what happened that night. According to details that had been released, this happened at 3 am. Supposedly, Pistorius awoke to noises coming from the bathroom. Thinking it was a prowler, he put on his prosthetic legs and rushed to the bathroom, gun in hand and fired through the door. Somehow he then discovered that it was his girlfriend in the bathroom.
There are a number of questions that should be answered at trial:
Since it took some time to put on his prosthetic legs, why didn’t he notice that Reeva (Steenkamp) wasn’t in bed?
The bathroom door was apparently closed. He fired in the vicinity of the toilet. What was going through his mind? Did the prowler all of a sudden have to pee?
There were reports that neighbors heard shouting. It is not clear if they heard gunshots and whether the shouting occurred before or after the gunshots. That would help determine whether there had been a loud argument before the shooting.
The explanation is that there were reports of prowlers. And, in fact, South Africa does have a high rate of violent crime. It was in response to this risk and apparently threats that he had personally received that caused Pistorius to arm himself. Did he take any gun safety classes that would have explained what to do in the event someone broke into his home?
The prosecution will no doubt have more questions to ask. They will try to prove that this was a premeditated murder. They will examine every little nuance to make their point. And the defense will try to combat those disclosures with some questions of their own. If nothing else, it may turn out to be a rerun of the OJ Simpson murder case.
But there is one big difference. Here is a man who did not let adversity get him down. He had his legs amputated before he was a year old and he has lived with prostheses ever since. He became proficient enough that he managed to make it to the regular Olympics. He has opened the door to other amputees who may not have felt they could do anything like that. He got us used to seeing his blades as he ran down the track. He has been instrumental in getting the public to disregard his handicap and to look at the things he can do.
And that’s where the story should be right now. To recognize that people with handicaps are regular, normal people. We shouldn’t shy away from them. We shouldn’t fear them (well, unless they like to brandish a gun). We should be comfortable in discussing any issues with them. It would be interesting to discuss their opinion about this turn of events. We should try to make those with handicaps feel more normal. And I guess charging one with murder is as normal as it gets.