Pistorius Walks on Stumps in Bid for Leniency on Murder Sentenceby
Defense lawyer urges correctional supervision and charity work
Prosecution attorney calls for a minimum sentence of 15 years
Oscar Pistorius hobbled without his prosthetic legs in the front of a South African court in a faded Nike T-shirt as his defense attorney urged the judge not to impose a prison sentence for murdering his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
The demonstration to show how vulnerable double-amputee Pistorius is without his prosthetics took place at the High Court in Pretoria, the capital, during final arguments over the sentence for the Paralympic gold medalist’s murder conviction. While defense attorney Barry Roux urged Judge Thokozile Masipa to impose a sentence of correctional supervision, prosecutor Gerrie Nel called for a minimum of 15 years. Masipa will announce the sentence on July 6.
“Life was the most valuable asset of the deceased, my lady,” Nel said. “She can never walk in court.”
Roux argued that Pistorius, a 29-year-old double amputee, felt anxious and vulnerable, and was “guilty of being irrational” when he fired four hollow-point bullets through his toilet door, thinking Steenkamp was an intruder. Nel said the fact that Pistorius armed himself with the intention for shooting whomever was in the bathroom suggested he meant to the kill the person.
“The public would be rationally served with a sentence where the accused can give back through community service,” Roux said.
Citing legislation that stipulates a minimum of 15 years for murder, Nel said correctional supervision advocated by Roux “is not even close to the benchmark.”
“It’s the duty of this court,” he said, referring to the minimum sentence.
Judge Masipa originally convicted Pistorius of manslaughter for killing Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day in 2013. In December, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that he was guilty of murder, citing “errors of law” in the first verdict.
Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic blades, Pistorius was granted 10,000-rand ($657) bail and ordered to remain under house arrest after the Supreme Court imposed the murder conviction on Dec. 3. He’s been serving part of his previous five-year sentence for culpable homicide at his uncle’s home.
“The accused has paid from the minute he shot, and will pay for the rest of his life,” Roux said. “He has paid with his future, he has paid emotionally, he has paid with not being able to live with his chosen loved one, he has paid financially. He is a broken man. He is judged and vilified. He is paying constantly.”
While Pistorius said he shot Steenkamp in the belief she was an intruder, the Supreme Court decided that he must have known the bullets would have killed whomever was behind the door. The Constitutional Court ruled on March 3 that Pistorius couldn’t appeal the murder conviction.
Since the shooting, Pistorius lost sponsorship deals with companies including Nike Inc., Luxottica Group SpA’s Oakley and Ossur hf.
Pistorius won six Paralympic gold medals and was the first double-amputee runner to compete at the Olympic Games. He was born without fibula in both legs, which were amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old.
Earlier, Steenkamp’s cousin Kim Martin testified that Steenkamp’s family and friends were still seeking an explanation of what happened.
“We just wanted the truth. That’s what we wanted. We heard so many versions from Oscar,” Martin said. “But we never heard an apology. We never heard him simply say ‘sorry for shooting and killing Reeva that night.”’
Nel said the court should give more prominent consideration in the sentence to the relatives of Steenkamp, including her father Barry, who said Tuesday that “Oscar has to pay for what he did.”
Masipa agreed to Nel’s request to lift a ban on photographs of Steenkamp’s injuries.