Oscar Pistorius Faces Prison as Judge Decides Murder Sentenceby
Prosecution wants 15 years, defense correctional supervision
Murdered girlfriend’s father said Pistorius ‘has to pay’
Oscar Pistorius may return to prison on Wednesday when South African High Court Judge Thokozile Masipa is scheduled to hand down the sentence for murdering his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day three years ago.
During hearings last month, defense attorney Barry Roux said 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. He requested a sentence of correctional supervision. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel, arguing for a minimum of 15 years in jail, 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.
“I think between 10-12 years should be the ballpark,” Marius du Toit, a criminal-defense lawyer at Du Toit Attorneys, said of the possible jail sentence. “It’s rather tough to call it because both sides really did their best.”
Masipa originally convicted Pistorius of manslaughter. In December, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that he was guilty of murder, citing “errors of law” in the first verdict. The Constitutional Court decided on March 3 that Pistorius couldn’t appeal the murder conviction.
Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic blades, Pistorius was granted 10,000-rand ($680) bail and ordered to remain under house arrest. He’s been serving part of his previous five-year sentence for culpable homicide at his uncle’s home.
The sentencing hearings from June 13-15 included testimony from Steenkamp’s father, Barry, describing suffering a stroke after learning of his daughter’s death and saying Pistorius “has to pay for what he did.” Witnesses for the defense said Pistorius was “broken” and should be hospitalized rather than jailed. Roux had the athlete walk in front of the court without his prosthetic legs to demonstrate his vulnerability.
Du Toit said both sides presented convincing testimony.
“Steenkamp testifying was golden, but similarly having Oscar parade on his stumps was also good,” he said.
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.