Pistorius Takes the Stand

oscar pistorius court day seven his murder trial heard lawyer barry roux question testimony 150x150 Pistorius Takes the Stand

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Oscar Pistorius.

There’s rarely any discussion of good or bad PR associated with murder trials; the defendant is declared innocent or guilty, and the case is closed. Things may be different in the case of South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, currently on trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius says he awoke during the night of February 14, 2013, hearing sounds. He told police he shot towards where he thought an intruder was hiding, only to find Steenkamp his victim. The prosecution has so far done a persuasive job of presenting an ex-girlfriend who told of Pistorius randomly shooting guns, a text message from Steenkamp saying she was afraid of him, and neighbors who heard angry shouts and terrified screams.

While listening to testimony, Pistorius has hardly been stoic. He has wept, held his head in his hands, been violently ill. But would he take the stand? His lawyers apparently thought it best. Yesterday, Pistorius – not shown on camera, but audible – gave a shaken testimony that halted proceedings when he eventually broke down.

Will it spare him from a 25 year prison term? It’s possible. The gun-carrying, temperamental boyfriend image was replaced by the trembling voice of a shattered man. Should Pistorius be declared innocent, his emotional testimony may also exonerate him in the court of public opinion.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Oscar Pistorius.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When all seems lost, that’s the time to take a risk. Most lawyers are wary of putting clients on the stand; not only can they be torn apart by the prosecution, but they may not show enough emotion, of the appropriate kind, for the jury’s liking. Pistorius, however, has been doing nothing but demonstrating remorse. His lawyers, facing the prosecution’s construction of a monster, put on the stand a man weeping and overcome with grief. The monster image has taken a hit.

What In “God’s Plan” Was George Zimmerman Thinking?

screen shot 2012 07 19 at 11 53 58 am 300x254 What In Gods Plan Was George Zimmerman Thinking?

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for George Zimmerman.

Who knows what George Zimmerman was thinking when he went on Fox yesterday for an hour-long interview? He clearly had messages he wanted to convey but in the end, his sit down interview probably made matters worse. The self-appointed neighborhood watchman, who made national headlines for murdering unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, looks set to continue being an ongoing lightning rod.

Presumably Zimmerman wanted to set the record straight ahead of his trial. His key message, “I’m not a racist, I’m not a murderer,” got ample airtime, but it was his other responses that made headlines. Zimmerman was asked if there was anything he regretted about the night he killed Trayvon Martin. “No sir, “ was the response. “I feel that it was God’s plan and not for me to second-guess or judge it.”

Zimmerman tried to make some amends by saying he prays for the parents of Martin daily and that he would “tell them again that [he is] sorry.” The interview concluded with Zimmerman looking into the camera apologising that his actions have polarized America. The key takeaway? The only thing guaranteed was that the interview further enraged Martin’s parents. What a mess.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for George Zimmerman. Apologies don’t work when you invoke the work of others, perhaps even blaming them, and that includes God. Where was his prep before this interview took place?

The PR Takeaway:  There was so much wrong with this interview. An hour-long television interview is the wrong way to apologize. If you do choose this route, say you are sorry in a short interview without bringing God into it to reduce your culpability. After this interview aired, Trayvon Martin’s father issued a statement saying, “I simply really don’t know what God George Zimmerman is worshipping, because there’s no way that the God that I serve had in his plans for George Zimmerman to murder my son.” With this sound bite, the worth of Zimmerman’s lengthy interview was reduced to zero.

Should George Zimmerman have done this interview? Should he have been better prepped? Is there anything at all that went right with this God-forsaken interview? Give us your PR Verdict!