JOHANNESBURG - The sentencing hearing for South African runner Oscar Pistorius began in Johannesburg Monday. The former Olympic athlete faces at least 15 years in jail after an appeals court overturned a
The former icon is now a broken man, Oscar Pistorius’ psychologist says — and needs a hospital, not a prison cell.
The athlete was back in the dock Monday after an appeals court convicted him of murder for killing his girlfriend in 2013. Now he faces a minimum sentence of 15 years. The sentencing hearing will continue Tuesday before Judge Thokozile Masipa.
Psychologist Jonathan Scholtz said the events of the past few years have taken a severe toll on Pistorius.
“Mr. Pistorius has elevated levels of anxiety that are clinically significant. These include symptoms and signs of social phobia, agoraphobia and panic disorder," said Scholtz. "In terms of his general mental health it was found that he had deteriorated since 2014. Apart from a worsening in his clinical condition, he has become despondent, lethargic and disinvested, leaving his future in the hands of God. In layman’s terms, one would describe him as broken. In my opinion, his current condition warrants hospitalization.”
Indeed, it has been a trying few years.
Pistorius says he is constantly racked by fear and anxiety. He continues to insist that he mistook his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, for an intruder when he shot four times through a locked bathroom door, killing her, on the night of Valentine’s Day, 2013.
Prosecutors argued that he meant to kill Steenkamp when when he shot through the door at his Pretoria home.
The lengthy murder trial was closely watched around the world, and outrage ensued when Judge Masipa convicted him in 2014 of culpable homicide — equivalent to the U.S. charge of manslaughter — and gave him a five-year sentence.
He was released on parole in October after a year of time served, only to see his conviction overturned and replaced with a murder conviction in December.
Scholtz says he believes Pistorius would be detrimentally affected by more prison time, and that he should instead be given a chance to make a positive contribution to society.
But for the most part, these pleas for mercy have been drowned out by howls of opposition. Recently, Scholtz said, a shopper at a supermarket complained about Pistorius’ presence in the store and demanded that he leave.
Just four short years ago, Oscar Pistorius was riding high on a wave of public adoration after being the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics.
Today, he’s greyer, thinner, a little bit more bent — and his life has been redefined not by his achievements, but by the life he took on that horrible night.