Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. In police procedurals on TV, it's when the defendant takes the stand that the drama begins and that's what precisely what happened today in South Africa when Olympic runner and double amputee Oscar Pistorius took the stand. Pistorius is accused of intentionally killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, at his home last year. He says he thought he was shooting an intruder. Today in court, Pistorius said he's been traumatized since then, waking up from nightmares to the smell of blood. He also had this to say to Reeva Steenkamp's family.
Oscar Pistorius: I'd like to apologize and say that there's not a moment and there hasn't been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven't thought about your family. I wake up every morning and you're the first people I think of, the first people I pray for. I can't imagine the pain and the sorrow and the emptiness that I've caused you and your family. I was simply trying to protect Reeva.
Werman: Geoffrey York was in the courtroom today and has been covering the Pistorius trial since it began. He's the Africa correspondent for Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper. Besides apologizing, what did we learn today from Oscar Pistorius' testimony about what happened that night, Geoffrey?
Geoffrey York: What they were doing today was really trying to establish Oscar Pistorius' state of mind, the vulnerability that he felt, the lack of safety that he felt at home and in South Africa and what the possible reasons could be for why he opened fire thinking that it was an intruder that night, if that's in fact what happened. The key question today from the point of view of the defense was to establish that Oscar Pistorius felt vulnerable, that he had a fear of crime, that he had been victimized many times in the past and had known many people who were victimized by crime and that he thought that it was an intruder that night.
Werman: With that apology to Reeva Steenkamp's family, it makes me wonder what the family thinks. Was this a terrible accident or a murder?
York: They have been saying right from the beginning that they wanted Mr. Pistorius to explain what he had done. I think they were waiting for this apology but they did not react very overtly to the apology. They just sort of listened and watched him. It's not clear if they're satisfied by this apology but it does seem that it was one of the things they were looking for, is for him to directly address them instead of these legal statements that we've seen in the past.
Werman: In the US, it's not always the case that the accused will take the stand in his or her own defense. Is it surprising that Pistorius took the stand in South Africa?
York: That's a good question. It wasn't 100% sure that he would. They could have presented their defense without him if they felt it was strong enough. But I think a huge amount of the defense's case will be Oscar Pistorius' state of mind. How unsafe did he feel, not just because of the crime in South Africa but also because of his own disability of course. He talked today about how unstable he feels when he doesn't have his prosthetic legs, when he's basically walking on his stumps. He can't balance properly and so on. These are all factors that add up to a state of mind. A big part of a murder charge, of course, is intent and the prosecution will be arguing that even if it can't be established that he deliberately tried to kill Reeva Steenkamp, he had an intent to kill someone behind the door. It was a very deliberate attempt. He fired four shots, he walked up to the door, he didn't wait for the door to be opened and so on, so that all speaks to intent.
Werman: Geoffrey York with Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper. He's in South Africa covering the trial of Olympian Oscar Pistorius. Geoffrey, thank you.
York: Thank you.