NEWS

Oscar Pistorius Sentencing: Athlete Caused 'Horrific' Death, Prosecutor Says

10/17/2014 05:26 EDT | Updated 12/17/2014 05:59 EST
PRETORIA, South Africa - The chief prosecutor in the Oscar Pistorius trial urged the judge on Friday to send the Olympic athlete to prison for at least 10 years, calling it the minimum acceptable term and noting the horrific nature of the shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp.

Judge Thokozile Masipa is expected to announce Pistorius' sentence on Tuesday. She adjourned court Friday after chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel and chief defence lawyer Barry Roux presented their final arguments for sentencing, summing up the testimony in the weeklong hearing.

Masipa found Pistorius guilty last month of culpable homicide for negligently killing Steenkamp, but acquitted him of murder. Culpable homicide is comparable to manslaughter and Masipa has a wide range of options on Pistorius' sentence. She could issue a suspended jail sentence and a fine, order the 27-year-old Paralympic champion to go under house arrest, or send him to prison for up to 15 years.

Nel said to Judge Masipa: "The minimum term that society will be happy with is 10 years in prison."

It was the first time prosecutors have said what sentence they are seeking for the double-amputee runner for shooting his girlfriend.

"The deceased died in a small cubicle behind a closed door," Nel said. "Three bullets ripped through her body."

Later, Nel said "this is a serious matter. The negligence borders on intent."

Pistorius' chief defence lawyer Roux said the world-famous athlete did not act with any "deviousness" when he killed Steenkamp, and acted while feeling extremely vulnerable and anxious. Pistorius testified he mistook Steenkamp for a dangerous intruder in his home and claimed the shooting was a tragic accident.

"The accused's actions were to some extent dominated by vulnerability and anxiety," Roux said to the red-robed judge who will decide Pistorius' fate. "When you come to sentence ... you have to look at the actions with his frame of mind."

Roux said there was also "no conscious unlawfulness" from Pistorius. He described Pistorius' suffering, both emotional and financial, since the Feb. 14, 2013 shooting.

"He's lost everything," Roux said of Pistorius, once an inspirational figure who became the first amputee to run at the Olympics in 2012. "He was an icon in the eyes of South Africans."

Pistorius at one point cried as he sat, his head bowed, on a wooden bench behind his lawyer.

"He's not only broke, but he's broken. There is nothing left of this man," Roux said. He said that Pistorius "hasn't even the money to pay for legal expenses. He has nothing left."

Pistorius' lawyers have argued for a three-year sentence of occasional house arrest and community service and no jail time, saying Pistorius has suffered emotionally and financially already, and would be under duress in prison because of his disability as a double amputee.

Nel called a house arrest sentence "shockingly disproportionate" to what Pistorius did in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine's Day last year when he shot four times with his 9 mm pistol through a toilet cubicle door in his home, hitting Steenkamp in the head, arm and hip.

Nel said Pistorius should never be allowed to own a firearm again after he was also convicted on another charge of unlawfully firing a gun in a public place in a restaurant incident in early 2013, weeks before Steenkamp's killing.

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Imray reported from Stellenbosch, South Africa.

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  • 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.