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Prosecution Demands 10 Years for Pistorius


Oscar Pistorius cries in court in Pretoria, South Africa, Oct. 17, 2014 during the last day of sentencing procedures where the defense and prosecution will put their case for and against sentencing.

Oscar Pistorius cries in court in Pretoria, South Africa, Oct. 17, 2014 during the last day of sentencing procedures where the defense and prosecution will put their case for and against sentencing.

Oscar Pistorius will know his fate on Tuesday when Judge Thokozile Masipa sentences him for the shooting death of his girlfriend in February 2013.

South Africa state prosecutor Gerrie Nel wrapped up a week-long sentencing hearing on Friday by calling for the Olympic runner to serve at least 10 years in prison for culpable homicide.

Defense advocate Barry Roux argued that punishment for Pistorius began as soon as he killed Reeva Steenkamp, saying he was “broke as well as broken."

Pistorius shook weeping in the Pretoria courtroom as his lawyer detailed his precipitous fall from icon to a man with “nothing."

Presiding Judge Thokozile Masipa listens to arguments at the end of the fourth day of sentencing proceedings for Oscar Pistroius in the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, Oct. 16, 2014.

Presiding Judge Thokozile Masipa listens to arguments at the end of the fourth day of sentencing proceedings for Oscar Pistroius in the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, Oct. 16, 2014.

Roux hopes to persuade Judge Masipa to sentence his client to correctional supervision -- potentially allowing Pistorius to resume his athletics career.
Two defense witnesses have recommended that Pistorius be placed under house arrest for three years, carrying out 16 hours of community service, such as cleaning, each month.

Roux premised his arguments on the "Ubuntu principle" -- a concept based on the idea that while crime hurts, justice should heal. Roux argued that a jail sentence should be the last resort and that Pistorius should be given a chance to give back to society.

“Previously it was as if it was standard, if you commit a crime you go to jail. Maybe, there are cases where we must just sit back and look again and ask is that really what the law is all about? questiones Roux, "Justice must be done but it must be done with compassion and humanity.”

During a six-month, on-off trial, state prosecutor Nel failed to convince the judge that Pistorius deliberately killed Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, when he shot four rounds through a bathroom door in what he said was the mistaken belief a burglar was lurking behind it.

The 27-year-old was instead convicted of culpable homicide, South Africa’s equivalent of manslaughter, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison or -- at the other end of the spectrum -- community service or a fine.

James Grant, Associate Professor of Law at Wits University, says that once a popular sentence in the early 1990s, correctional sentencing has since fallen out of fashion.

“I don’t think we’ve ever returned to the point where its been regarded as an appropriate sentence for very serious offenses, such as murder…," he said. "So now the question of course is, whether culpable homicide falls into that category of very serious offenses for which it is not appropriate and that I think is debatable.”

Nel has repeatedly described a community sentence as "shockingly inappropriate." South African case law states that an appeal can be made on the grounds that a sentence is deemed "shocking, startling or disturbingly inappropriate".

The prosecution may appeal on these grounds, but only after the sentence is handed down.

The prosecutor underpinned the severity of the crime, recalling the testimony this week of Steenkamp’s cousin, Kim Martin, who said that a lenient sentence would send the wrong message to society.

Nel charged that Pistorius, an athlete who fought to compete with able-bodied athletes, has “shamelessly” used his disability as an excuse and wants the court to think of him - not Steenkamp - as the victim in this case. A non-custodial sentence might cause society to “lose its trust in the court," he states.

“The minimum term that society will be happy with will be 10 years imprisonment sentence… This is a serious matter, the negligence bordered on intent," he said, "Ten years is the minimum.”

Legal experts are still undecided and reluctant to predict a sentence.

Grant says many were stunned when Judge Masipa chose not to convict for murder.

“The judge is in a terrible dilemma…," he said. "Should she for instance impose a sentence that is harsher only so that people don't think that Pistorius is not being given special treatment? She is in an incredibly difficult position.“

But a light sentence may propel the belief that South Africa’s justice system is lenient towards rich, white offenders.

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