PRETORIA - South African Olympic and Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius is back in Pretoria’s high court for sentencing after being found guilty of culpable homicide. Pistorius could face up to 15 years in prison, although there is also a chance he may walk free. The sentencing hearing is expected to last several days.
Pistorius was found guilty last month of negligently killing Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, when he shot four nine millimeter rounds through a bathroom door in what he said was the mistaken belief a burglar was lurking behind it.
Culpable homicide, South Africa’s equivalent of manslaughter, is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, community service or a fine.
Judge Thokozile Masipa will sentence Pistorius this week, capping a six-month, on-off trial that has chronicled the fall from grace of the double-amputee athlete, who was once revered in South Africa as the ultimate example of triumph over adversity.
The sprinter, dubbed the "blade runner" because of the carbon-fibre prosthetics he uses to run, sat solemnly in the dock Monday as witnesses gave their testimony.
Pistorius' psychologist Dr. Lore Hartzenberg was the first defense witness to speak at the hearing. She described Pistorius as a man in deep remorse, describing him as “very emotional” during therapy sessions, which were often disrupted by the athlete weeping and retching.
"It is foreseen that Mr. Pistorius will require intensive and ongoing psychotherapy. What we are left with, My Lady, we are left with a broken man who has lost everything," Hartzenberg said.
The second defense witness was Department of Correctional Services social worker Joel Maringa, who argued that Pistorius would be a good candidate for house arrest, subject to strict guidelines, and should be forbidden from owning a firearm.
“He is going to be put within his home environment. He will not do as he wishes, he always have to ask for permission," noted Maringa. "Also he has got to attend the programs which are aimed at basically reforming him.”
Maringa told the court that community service would entail 16 hours a month when Pistorius would be required to do “domestic work."
When prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked him how long he would recommend that Pistorius undergo house arrest, Maringa replied that three years would be suitable.
“You are saying that it is in the interest of society that reflects the seriousness of the crime that somebody should be sent to three years correction supervision by having killed an innocent woman in her house," Nel asked. "To even suggest three years - is shockingly inappropriate."
Amid growing discontent in South Africa at the verdict, Judge Masipa has been criticized for being too lenient on the athlete, bolstering a belief that the country’s justice favors rich, white suspects.