D-Day for Oscar Pistorius

2014-10-21 06:00

After a seven-month trial, paralympian Oscar Pistorius will be sentenced today in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria for the death of his model and law-graduate girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Judge Thokozile Masipa is expected to hand down her sentence at 9.30am, after finding him guilty last month of culpable homicide.

Yesterday, the correctional services department denied reports that it had already prepared a cell for Pistorius at the Kgosi Mampuru II Prison.

"Any insinuation that the department has prepared a cell to incarcerate anyone who has not yet been sentenced to a jail term is both malicious and irresponsible," said justice department spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga yesterday.

He was reacting to an Eyewitness News report that a cell had been prepared for Pistorius at the prison.

During the trial, Steenkamp's parents June and Barry were present on some days, along with family and friends. Barry Steenkamp broke down in court as his niece Kim Martin told the court last week she was Reeva's voice.

Martin was the only Steenkamp family member to take the stand. She said Barry Steenkamp had said he would "lose it" if he had to testify.

Pistorius' sister Aimee, brother Carl, uncle Arnold and aunt Lois were in court almost every day. His father Henke has come to court since judgment in September.

Aimee and Carl often consoled the athlete during lunch and tea breaks, after he cried during proceedings. The pair also gave interviews to television broadcasters CNN and eNCA on the day before sentencing, talking about how "very taxing" the past few months had been.

During sentencing closing arguments on Friday, prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued that the negligence Pistorius had been found guilty of was so serious only a jail sentence would suffice.

"The only, but only reasonable sentence would be long-term incarceration," he said.

Nel argued that by giving the Steenkamps R6000 a month for 18 months and offering them another R375 000, Pistorius had tried to influence his sentence.

He said Pistorius should not use his disability to avoid jail.

"I find it disturbing that a man with a disability, that competed with able-bodied athletes would now shamelessly use this as an argument," said Nel.

Presenting closing arguments for sentencing, Barry Roux, SC, for Pistorius, said the principles of ubuntu and restorative justice should be applied to the case.

"Serious regard should be given to a community-based sentence, to restorative justice," he told the court.

Roux argued that Pistorius was not a cold-blooded murderer, but a vulnerable person who used excessive force.

Yesterday, the Mail Online reported that Steenkamp's sister, Simone Cowburn, said Pistorius should be given a harsh sentence and did not deserve special treatment because of his disability.

"So as far as I am concerned, he knew she was in there. It is all lies. He lost his temper and shot her. He wanted to own her, but he couldn't. She was very independent," Cowburn was quoted as saying.

"I am still in shock that he got off. He fired the first shot, stopped and then realised he had to shoot again to finish it ... Even if it had been a burglar, he had no right to shoot through that door with those bullets. You wouldn't even shoot an animal with those bullets."

She said Pistorius was guilty of domestic violence at its most extreme and that a "soft punishment" would be a blow to the Steenkamps.

The trial started on March 3 after the State charged the athlete with premeditated murder.

On September 12, Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide for the Valentine's Day 2013 shooting of Steenkamp. The court found him not guilty of murdering her.

Pistorius was found guilty of firing a shot from his friend Darren Fresco's Glock pistol under a table at Tasha's restaurant in Johannesburg in January last year.

He was found not guilty of shooting through the open sunroof of a car in Modderfontein on September 30, 2012, and of illegal possession of ammunition.

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