Oscar Pistorius Sentenced to Five Years

 

Oct. 21, 2014 — UPDATE: Oscar Pistorius was sentenced today to five years in prison for the culpable homicide of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp and received a three-year sentence for negligently discharging a firearm in a crowded restaurant, though that term was suspended, according to The Guardian UK. The British newspaper noted that Pistorius looked distressed and clasped hands with family members as police led the Paralympian from the dock down 23 steps to the holding cells below the high court in Pretoria. The world famous athlete had faced the possibility of 15 years behind bars when he was formally sentenced by Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa, who said Tuesday that it is a judge’s duty to impose a sentence that is neither too harsh, nor too light. An attorney representing Steenkamp’s parents said Pistorius will likely qualify for parole and serve two years in prison, with the remaining three years under house arrest.

Oct. 13, 2014 – UPDATE: The sentencing phase of Oscar Pistorius’ trial began today. According to The New York Times, the sentencing hearing began with Pistorius’ defense team requesting leniency from Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa.

Defense witnesses described Pistorius as “a broken man” and his attorneys requested a punishment of house arrest and community service with no jail time. The sentence is ultimately up to the discretion of Judge Masipa and could range anywhere from a fine to 15 years in prison.

Sept. 12, 2014 – UPDATE: Related to this matter, Oscar Pistorius was found guilty today of culpable homicide for the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Feb. 14, 2013.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Judge Masipa – who cleared Pistorius of two murder charges yesterday – convicted Pistorius of the lesser charge of culpable homicide, which is negligent, unintentional killing. Pistorius could face no jail time at all or significant time behind bars depending on how reckless the judge deems his actions.

The judge cleared Pistorius of two firearms charges in connection with other incidents – recklessly firing a weapon out of the sunroof of a car and illegal possession of ammunition – but convicted him of a third charge of recklessly discharging a firearm in a public place. The charge was related to an event where Pistorius says a gun accidently went off in his hand.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 13.

A judge established Thursday that South African track star Oscar Pistorius is not guilty of murder for the shooting death of his model girlfriend, 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp. According to The New York Times, Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa cleared Pistorius of the two most serious charges against him – premeditated murder and another, lesser charge of murder.

 

Charges were brought against Pistorious after he shot and killed Steenkamp through the bathroom door of his villa in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, thinking that she was an intruder. Pistorius, who is a double amputee, stated that he thought he heard the sound of the bathroom window opening and, believing there was an intruder in his bathroom, made his way down a darkened hallway before firing on the locked bathroom door. Pistorius then broke down the door with a cricket bat and discovered Steenkamp’s body inside.

In the South African judicial system there are no jury trials, therefore Judge Masipa, assisted by two aides, will render a verdict on her own for all charges against Pistorius. According to South African procedures, the judgment includes a summary of the facts, a breakdown of the evidence, and a verdict for each individual charge. Judge Masipa suspended court proceedings for the remainder of the day following her ruling clearing Pistorius of the two murder charges and adjourned the hearing until Friday before issuing a verdict on the charge of culpable homicide, which is considered the negligent killing of another person and is similar to the criminal charge of involuntary manslaughter in the U.S. The penalty for culpable homicide is at the discretion of the judge, but can range anywhere from no jail time to 15 years behind bars. Pistorius also faces three counts of firearms charges.

In her judgment, Judge Masipa dismissed much of the prosecution’s evidence aimed at highlighting the tumultuous relationship between Pistorius and Steenkamp in order to establish motive, stating that normal relationships are “dynamic and unpredictable.” Some of that evidence included text messages that were exchanged between the couple and testimony from neighbors who claimed they heard a man and a woman arguing before the shots were fired.

Judge Masipa stated that there is no doubt about the fact that Pistorius picked up and fired a loaded gun, but that the prosecution had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty of premeditated murder. The most credible part of Pistorius’ testimony, according to Masipa, is that he genuinely believed that someone had broken into his home and was hiding in the bathroom when he shot and killed Steenkamp.

In being cleared of the murder charges, Pistorius has avoided a possible jail sentence of up to 25 years, although he may still face some time in jail if found guilty of the homicide charge.

As a firm dedicated to protecting the accused from unjust punishments, we are intrigued as to how this South African justice system will handle the outcome of Pistorius’ case and we will update this blog when more information becomes available.