Pistorius Sentencing Hearing: Jailer Says He’s Violent, Defender Says He’s ‘A Broken Man’
A South African judge is hearing emotional testimony on paralympic athlete Oscar Pitorius that could help decide how long he will be imprisoned as punishment for the 2013 murder of girlfriend Reeva Steeenkamp.
A jailer described Pistorius as violent. A psychologist said Pistorius is depressed, broken and unfit to stand trial. Steenkamp’s grieving father said Pistorius has to pay for what he did. And a defense lawyer says he should get leniency for good behavior.
Pistorius served one year of a five-year prison sentence for manslaughter after shooting Steenkamp but that conviction was overturned in 2015 by an appeals court, which convicted him of the more serious charge of murder, NBCNews reported.
Judge Thokozile Masipa initially acquitted Pistorius of murder, and will now decide the new sentence at a hearing scheduled to run through Friday. He could serve a minimum 15 years, although the judge could reduce that.
The case prompted fierce debate in South Africa, with some rights groups saying the white athlete got preferential treatment, NBC reported.
Pistorius killed Steenkamp by firing four bullets through a closed bathroom door at his Pretoria home.
The judge heard testimony from Charlotte Mashabane, an assistant health manager at Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre hospital section where Pistorius was held, IndependentOnline reported.
Mashabane is responsible for checking on patients’ conditions.
After trying to rouse him from bed on one occasion to check on Pistorius, Mashabane said he shouted at her, saying she was disturbing him. “No, get out, get out!” he told her.
In another incident, Pistorius asked for a supplement and pneumatic device, but grew impatient with delays in the prison bureaucracy and banged on the table with his notebook, saying the medical team was “useless.”
Mashabane said Pistorius tried to return some medication and threw it onto a table in anger, IndependentOnline reported:
“What is it you’re coming to tell us? Is he a violent person?” asked defense advocate Barry Roux.
“He’s not violent…” she said, before Roux interrupted her. But upon further questioning, she said she felt threatened by the athlete during his tantrums.
“He’s actually quite violent,” she said.
Defense witness Dr. Jonathan Scholtz said Pistorius is suffering from “major depression,” BBC reported.
Scholtz said a jail term would not be constructive. Pistorius is traumatized by the sound of gunfire, even in a film, and never wants to go near a firearm again, Scholtz said. He has sold all his weapons.
“Since the offence he has developed a serious psychiatric condition which has become worse over the past two years,” he told the court.
Instead, Pistorius should do community service so that he can help others, Scholtz said. The athlete has a job offer as a project manager in an early childhood development program run by his uncle’s company.
State prosecutor Gerrie Nel questioned Scholtz’ assertion that Pistorius was unfit to testify in court, saying he had given an hour-long interview to British broadcaster ITV.
Barry Steenkamp said his daughter’s death contributed to his health problems. His wife June grieves just as much as he does despite what he called her “stone-faced” public demeanor.
“I hear her at night,” he said. “I hear her crying. I hear her talking to Reeva.”
On Monday, a prosecutor told the court that Pistorius “feels sorry for himself” and has shown no remorse for murdering his girlfriend, NBC reported.