Prior to his February 14, 2013 shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, South African 2012 Paralympic Gold and Silver Medal Winner Oscar Pistorius possessed enormous personal power with exceptional charisma, handsome good-looks, and Olympic athletic abilities.
However, since the March 03, 2014 onset of The State vs Oscar Pistorius murder trial of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, Pistorius’ courtroom body language have changed dramatically as the stress of facing both the premeditation murder charges and the trial have already taken a toll on him.
Here Pistorius is outside the courtroom using a coat to shield, cover, and protect his entire head and shoulders. His body gestures suggest that he is attempting to hide and disappear from the public and from possible feelings of guilt, shame, remorse, and perceived threats of danger:
- shoulders are slumped
- head is in a submissive downward position with chin tucked inward similar to a turtle tucking the head inside the shell when frightened;
- right hand holding a tissue
- left hand is close to his neckline and approaching the suprasternal notch of his throat
In the context of defending himself in a murder trial, his entire cluster of body language cues signifies non-power positions of vulnerability.
To avoid onlookers “reading his lips,” Pistorius used his fingers and hands to block his nose, lips, and mouth as he talked to his defense lawyer Barry Roux inside the courtroom.
Pistorius continued with other body gestures of blocking, hiding, and disappearing when he didn’t like what he faced…
didn’t like what he heard…
or when the situation was too much to bear Pistorius broke down in tears and showed significant negative emotions as evidenced by the redding of the forehead, bulging temple veins, and contractions of facial muscles. His hands served to protect and distance his face from public view.
He got so upset that he vomited on March 10, 2014 during the graphic autopsy testimony by pathologist Dr. Gert Saaymon regarding Reeva Steenkamp’s fatal bodily wounds and injuries.
The next two photos suggest that Pistorius has just endured a long day of trial and his body is wearing down, as shown by the multiple horizontal lines across his forehead and the droopy eyelids.
Although Pistorius used a “steepling” hand gesture that normally conveys power if the steeple of the fingers were pointed upward, his interlocked fingers in this photo were inverted and pointed downward. Perhaps Pistorius is realizing the full extent of the premeditated murder charges and the enormity of the trial proceedings. Therefore as a result, his fingers are visibly showing his loss of personal and emotional power.
Below, Pistorius demonstrates a submissive posture with head bowed down, eyes closed or cast downward away from the glaring lenses of the media cameras, chin tucked inward towards neck, shoulders forward and slumped, with hands covering in front of genital area. This body language image conveys a man, humbled by possible shame or guilt, quietly asking for forgiveness.