Defence, State flex muscles in Oscar resentencing

2016-06-15 17:12
(Siphiwe Sibeko, Pool Photo via AP)

(Siphiwe Sibeko, Pool Photo via AP)

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Pretoria – The sentencing of Oscar Pistorius for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp appeared to become a matter of one side trying to outdo the other with dramatic gestures on Wednesday.

Barry Roux had Pistorius walk across the courtroom on his stumps. Some of the elderly ladies in the public gallery, who were there to show their support for the former Paralympian, started sobbing. 

Pistorius appeared humiliated by the experience. His face reddened, he cried, and he kept his eyes on the floor as he made his way slowly from one side of the court to the other, and back, steadying himself against the furniture.  

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked Judge Thokozile Masipa for an order allowing six photos of the gunshot wounds Pistorius inflicted on Reeva Steenkamp to be made public.

"Let us show the world what this accused did," Nel said. She granted the request.

Both the State and defence presented their closing arguments. Nel called for the court to send Pistorius to jail for a minimum of 15 years, arguing that his personal circumstances were of minor significance in such a serious matter.

Taught not to see disability

Roux emphasised his client's vulnerability and spoke out against the "sustained campaign of misinformation" against him.   

Nel rejected Roux's arguments about Pistorius' vulnerability because of his disability. He said he had excellent coping skills, his mother had taught him never to see himself as disabled, and he competed against able-bodied athletes.

"He intentionally killed the deceased. The accused, with intent, killed the deceased. The finding was that he was guilty of the murder of Reeva," Nel repeated.

He said Pistorius had still not shown remorse for, or acknowledged murdering Steenkamp on February 14, 2013. He had failed to take the court into his confidence and reveal his reasons for firing the four shots that killed her. Instead he had given an interview to a television channel. Nel said this was disrespectful to the court and to the Steenkamps.

Nel called on the court to consider Steenkamp in sentencing Pistorius. 

"The court should take into account who she was, what she was, what dreams she had. She had no contributory factor in this crime. It was all the accused. She wanted to look after her father and mother," he said.

Public perception

Roux said Nel aggravated Barry Steenkamp's pain due to the "incorrect case" he presented, namely that Pistorius shot and killed his daughter during an argument.

He said there was an inability in some parts of society to see Pistorius as a vulnerable man, with an anxiety disorder, 1.50m tall on his stumps, confronting what he believed was an intruder hiding in his bathroom, in the dark at 03:00.

He was still portrayed as a gold-medal winner; a strong, ambitions man who was 1.84m tall. "That perception perfectly attaches to the I-wanted-to-kill theory," Roux said.

Roux compared Pistorius' case to that of former Springbok rugby player Rudi "Vleis" Visagie.

He shot and killed his only daughter, Marle, 19, on May 23, 2004, thinking she was a thief driving off in his car. He was never prosecuted. 

Roux said everyone sympathised with Visagie and understood that it was possible to shoot at a person under a mistaken belief.

"The one should not be prosecuted and the other one sentenced to 15 years. It cannot be."

Masipa would hand down her sentence on Wednesday, July 6.

Read more on:    oscar pistorius  |  pretoria  |  pistorius trial  |  crime

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