October 25, 2016

Judge Begins Reading Out Oscar Pistorius’ Murder Sentence

Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorius (C), accused of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at the High Court in Pretoria. (AFP Photo)

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA:  A South African judge has said she has taken into consideration mitigating factors as she started reading out Oscar Pistorius’ sentence for murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Judge Thokozile Masipa began with the background to her decision of Pistorius’ sentence. The double-amputee Olympian faces a possible 15-year jail term for shooting Steenkamp in 2013, although Masipa can give a reduced sentence if she believes there are compelling circumstances to be lenient.

Masipa asked Pistorius to sit on his wooden bench in the Pretoria courtroom on Wednesday while she explained the reasons for her decision.

“It now remains for this court to impose an appropriate sentence,” Masipa said.

The judge said she would consider a variety of factors, including the interests of society and those of the victims, as well as themes of crime deterrence and rehabilitation of perpetrators.

Steenkamp’s parents, Barry and June, sat on the other side of the courtroom, which was packed with journalists and other observers.

Pistorius appeared calm and looked straight ahead at the judge as she read from her notes.

Pistorius was initially acquitted of Steenkamp’s murder by Masipa at a trial in 2014. He served a year in jail for manslaughter but his conviction was changed to murder by South Africa’s Supreme Court last year.

Pistorius shot Steenkamp through a toilet cubicle door at his home, and claimed her mistook her for an intruder. Prosecutors said the athlete killed his girlfriend intentionally after an argument.

The fact that the killing was purportedly a mistake, in Pistorius’ account, “does not in any way make the offense any less serious,” Masipa said Wednesday.

Masipa also noted testimony by defense witnesses during sentencing hearings that Pistorius was suffering from mental problems and was effectively a “broken man,” after the killing, and that he wanted to give back to society by assisting underprivileged children in sports programs at a number of South African schools.

Masipa also delved into Pistorius’ childhood, recalling defense testimony that his mother’s reported anxiety over crime made him anxious as well, and that her death when he was a teenager left him feeling abandoned. She also commented on the year he spent in jail after initially being convicted of manslaughter. She said Pistorius now has an aversion to guns, a dramatic contrast to the fact that he used to avidly collect firearms before he killed Steenkamp.

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