NEWS

Oscar Pistorius Sentencing: Reeva Steenkamp's Cousin Testifies

10/16/2014 05:16 EDT | Updated 12/16/2014 05:59 EST
PRETORIA, South Africa - Oscar Pistorius must "pay for what he's done" and his apology to the family of the girlfriend he killed was not sincere, a cousin of Reeva Steenkamp testified Thursday.

Kim Martin spoke on the fourth day of the sentencing portion of the double-amputee Olympian's trial. Following the testimony, which is expected to end this week, Judge Thokozile Masipa will rule on what punishment Pistorius must serve after convicting him of culpable homicide for shooting Steenkamp through a toilet door in his home.

"My lady, I really believe the accused, Mr. Pistorius, needs to pay for what he's done," Martin testified before the red-robed judge.

"My family are not seeking revenge," Martin said. "We just feel to take somebody's life, to shoot somebody behind the door who is unarmed, who is harmless, needs sufficient punishment."

Pistorius was acquitted of murder for the Feb. 14, 2013 killing and found guilty of the lesser crime of negligent killing. Masipa has wide latitude when deciding on a sentence for culpable homicide, and could order a suspended sentence and a fine, house arrest, or send him to prison for up to 15 years.

Defence lawyers have argued for a sentence of three years of house arrest with community service. In the first part of the sentencing hearing, they called a psychologist and social workers, who said that Pistorius should not go to prison because of his ongoing emotional suffering. They also said his disability as a double amputee who needs prosthetic legs would leave him vulnerable in jail.

Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel has called suggestions of a house arrest sentence as "shockingly inappropriate" and wants Pistorius to be sent to prison.

Martin, the cousin, said a prison sentence would be appropriate for Pistorius and that she understood the rehabilitation program in jail to be humane and dignified, contrary to allegations by one of the social workers who testified for the defence. In her sometimes emotional testimony, Martin said many people had suffered because of Pistorius, including his own family, and that a sentence that excludes jail time would encourage the athlete to "feel within himself that what he's done is all right."

Zach Modise, the acting national commissioner for correctional services, testified after Martin, saying that the South African prison system compared favourably with prisons he had visited in Britain and the United States. He acknowledged problems such as overcrowding and gang activity, but said officials had made progress in combatting those problems and that some prison facilities can cater to disabled criminals, including Pistorius.

"We will be able to accomodate him," Modise said.

However, defence lawyer Barry Roux referred to reports of an increase in alleged torture in South Africa's prison system. He also said an imprisoned gang leader allegedly said Pistorius would be under threat if he is incarcerated; Modise said he was not aware of any threat.

At the beginning of Thursday's proceedings, Nel congratulated Judge Masipa on her birthday and people in the courtroom applauded. Masipa smiled, thanked Nel and then the testimony began on the 47th day of proceedings in the case, which began more than seven months ago.


  • Pistorius could serve 10 years in prison
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    South African hip hop star Molemo Maarohanye, knownas Jub Jub, and his co-accused Themba Tshabalala were found guilty of culpable homicide while dragracing when his car ploughed into a group of schoolchildren. He was given a 10 year sentence, so their is precedence for Pistorius to serve a long term in prison. And a taxi driver's murder conviction was also reduced to culpable homicide last year, cutting his prison time to eight years instead of 20. The driver's car had hit a train, and 10 children died in the accident.
  • Pistorius could receive a suspended, or part-suspeded sentence
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Much of the South African media has predicted that the athlete will get a suspended sentence, which will mean he will not go to prison, unless he commits another misdemeanor. Pistorius is a first-time offender, with a good character record as an athlete and philanthropist, and has shown a great deal of remorse for killing Steenkamp
  • Pistorius could receive a non-custodial sentence
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Pistorius has been positioning himself as someone willing to do time in the community, which such a sentence could entail. A non-custodial sentence could be wide-ranging, including restrictions on his movement and community service. In the opening of the sentencing, Pistorius' psychiatrist said the athlete wanted to work in a school associated with his uncle in Mozambique, and no longer pursue a career in athletics.
  • He could be fined, and released
    Christopher Furlong via Getty Images
    The judge may consider Pistorius to be no danger to the wider public and highly unlikely to re-offend, given his remorse and his diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. South African prisons are painfully overcrowded and Pistorus' defence has argued that he would suffer greatly in prison where his prosthetic legs would have to be removed due to prison protocol. He might be given a hefty fine and sent on his way. This has precedent too, Bryce Moon, an ex-South African footballer was fined just over £3000 for killing a domestic worker Mavis Ncube by knocking her down with his car.

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