Countdown for Oscar

2014-10-11 14:15
Oscar Pistorius. (Themba Hadebe, AP, Pool)

Oscar Pistorius. (Themba Hadebe, AP, Pool)

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Pretoria - Disgraced Paralympian Oscar Pistorius appears in court on Monday to face sentencing for shooting dead his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. 

In September, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled the 27-year-old did not knowingly shoot to kill Steenkamp on Valentine's Day 2013, and found him guilty on the lesser charge of culpable homicide. 

He faces 15 years in jail or could dodge a jail term altogether with a non-custodial sentence after being found not guilty of premeditated murder.

Some lawyers believed Judge Masipa misinterpreted the definition of murder.

The sentencing starts not even a week after another judge overturned the murder convictions of another South African celebrity, hip-hop artist Molemo "Jub Jub" Maarohanye, who killed four school children with his Mini Cooper and leaving two others with brain damage.

His conviction was reduced to culpable homicide on appeal and his has been reduced from 25 years in jail to eight.

"The sense is we're just too soft on crime," said Martin Hood, a criminal lawyer based in Johannesburg.

"We keep seeing that over and over again, we have magistrates and judges who have the discretion to impose harsh sentences and they simply don't do it," said Hood.

"They are massively influenced by the costs of holding a prisoner and by the overcrowding of people in prisons."

No prescribed sentence

Judge Masipa will begin proceedings next week by hearing defence witnesses who will testify on why Pistorius should not serve time behind bars.

She will then turn to the State, who will call witnesses to testify on why he should serve the stiffest penalty.

A conviction of culpable homicide does not have a prescribed sentence as the penalty is at the judge's discretion.

Masipa will likely adjourn court to consider the evidence before setting another date to hand down the sentence.

However, that will probably not mark the end of the case.

After the sentence is handed down, both the State and defence can appeal.

"The State can only appeal on grounds of law," said Ulrich Roux, a Johannesburg-based criminal lawyer.

"In this instance, that the murder principal has been applied incorrectly by the judge."

The defence can appeal the conviction of culpable homicide or the sentence - or both - said Roux.

"They can say the judge made an error in considering the facts or interpreting the law," he said.

Read more on:    reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  thokozile masipa  |  pretoria  |  pistorius trial

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