Pistorius’ murder sentence more than doubled
A court in South Africa on Friday more than doubled the prison sentence for Oscar Pistorius to 13 years and five months for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp.
Pistorius, who gained fame as a double-amputee runner who competed in the 2012 Olympics, fatally shot Steenkamp four times through a closed bathroom door at his home in Pretoria in the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 2013. Pistorius claimed he thought Steenkamp was an intruder.
Under a 2015 murder conviction, Pistorius was originally sentenced to six years in prison.
On Friday, South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal called that sentence “shockingly lenient,” and more than doubled it after unanimously upholding an appeal by prosecutors, the Associated Press reported.
Under the new sentence, the earliest Pistorius will be eligible for parole is 2023, according to the AP.
The lengthened sentence was another twist in a protracted legal battle over the case.
Pistorius, 31, was originally convicted in September 2014 of culpable homicide, or manslaughter in the United States, and later sentenced to five years in prison.
“I am of the view that a noncustodial sentence would send the wrong message to the community, but a long sentence would not be appropriate because it would lack the elements of mercy,” Judge Thokozile Masipa said at the sentencing.
Steenkamp’s family said at the time they were “satisfied” with the five-year sentence, even if it wasn’t what they were hoping for.
In 2015, South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal overturned Masipa’s culpable homicide conviction and instead found Pistorius guilty of murder, a more severe charge that, under South African law, carries a minimum sentence of 15 years.
“He is a person well-trained in the use of firearms and was holding his weapon at the ready in order to shoot,” the court’s decision read. “He paused at the entrance to the bathroom and when he became aware that there was a person in the toilet cubicle, he fired four shots through the door. And he never offered an acceptable explanation for having done so.”
The decision sent Pistorius back to court for resentencing. Masipa, the trial judge, sentenced Pistorius to six years in prison for murder, effectively only adding a year to his culpable homicide sentence. The decision shocked many who had expected a sentence of between 10 and 15 years, with credit for time already served.
He remains, Masipa said, “a good candidate” for rehabilitation. In addition, she said, “he has already spent some time,” 12 months, serving his original sentence.
It remains to be seen if Friday’s decision by South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal will mean the end of Pistorius’s legal saga. According to the AP, his lawyers can still challenge the new, lengthened sentence with South Africa’s Constitutional Court, the country’s highest court.
The decision marked another step in the dramatic downfall of Pistorius, who became known as the “Blade Runner” and “the fastest man on no legs” for running on two blade-like prosthetics. He was one of the few athletes to compete in both the Paralympic Games and the Olympic Games after qualifying for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.