Wide latitude for Judge Masipa when she sentences Oscar

2014-10-13 05:00
Oscar Pistorius. (Themba Hadebe, AP, Pool)

Oscar Pistorius. (Themba Hadebe, AP, Pool)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Johannesburg - What kind of sentence will Oscar Pistorius get for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp?

Judge Thokozile Masipa has wide latitude in deciding the sentence after several days of legal arguments and testimony that begin on Monday.

Last month she convicted the disgraced Paralympian of culpable homicide. Sentences for such a crime can range from a suspended sentence and a fine, to as many as 15 years in prison.

Pistorius was charged with premeditated murder in a televised trial that transfixed many people around the world, but Masipa found him not guilty of that charge.

She drew criticism from those who thought Pistorius could at least have been convicted of a lesser murder charge on the grounds that he knew a person could die when he fired four bullets through a toilet door in his home early on Valentine's Day last year.

Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, died in the hail of bullets and prosecutors said Pistorius had opened fire in anger after the couple argued. The runner testified that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder who was about to come out of the toilet and attack him.

Lawyers vary widely in predictions about what kind of sentence Pistorius will get.

Some say he is unlikely to go to jail because defence lawyers will successfully argue that the athlete is a first-time offender with a disability that would subject him to particular hardship in prison, while others anticipate that Pistorius will be sentenced to some prison time because of the severity of his crime.

"I think that the probabilities are that the judge will send him to prison for a certain period, but not a very long one," said George Bizos, a human rights lawyer. He did not specify the length of a possible jail term.

There are "clear aggravating and mitigating factors" that could influence the judge's decision-making, but that it was difficult to accurately predict the penalty because the "sentencing law is so individually applied", said Kelly Phelps, a senior lecturer in the public law department at the University of Cape Town.

There are, however, past culpable homicide sentences in South Africa that provide some context for the Pistorius case.

They include that of Molemo "Jub Jub" Maarohanye whose murder conviction was overturned and replaced with a culpable homicide conviction this month, dropping his prison sentence from 25 to eight years.

He was arrested after a 2010 drag race in which he and another man ploughed cars into a group of schoolchildren, killing four and seriously injuring two.

In a separate case, a taxi driver's murder conviction was also reduced to culpable homicide last year, cutting his prison time to eight years instead of 20. The driver's car had hit a train, and 10 children died in the accident.

Read more on:    reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  jub jub  |  pretoria  |  pistorius trial  |  jub jub case

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.


24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Financial advisors – Do you need one and should you get one?

The good, the bad, and everything else you need to know when considering hiring a financial advisor.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.