Reeva Steenkamp’s dad: Pistorius must pay for what he did
Barry Steenkamp took the stand in a sentencing hearing for Pistorius. It was the first time he has testified during the three-year legal odyssey that started when Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend in February 2013.
The father told the South African court that his wife, June, had forgiven Pistorius, but that the former Olympic and Paralympic sprinter must still pay the price for his crime.
“You have to understand that forgiveness doesn’t exonerate you from what you did,” he said in the Pretoria courtroom.
And he said the world should see the photographs of his daughter’s body after she was killed.
“There is something I have to ask the court,” he said. “I would like the world to see is the wounds inflicted into Reeva and the pain she went through.”
Steenkamp, who is diabetic, said he has stabbed himself with a needle in parts of his body to try to recreate the pain his daughter suffered.
Pistorius called ‘broken man’
The one-time Paralympic gold medalist is facing a weeklong sentencing hearing for Reeva Steenkamp’s murder.
The hearing may be the final chapter of his widely watched trial in the fatal 2013 Valentine’s Day shooting. Pistorius faces up to 15 years in prison.
Attorneys for the double-amputee sprinter, nicknamed “Blade Runner” for his prosthetic legs, argued that Pistorius was too mentally unwell to serve more jail time.
The only witness called Monday was Jonathan Scholtz, a clinical psychologist, who repeatedly described the athlete as “a broken” man.” He explained Pistorius was not able to testify due to anxiety and depression following his dramatic fall from grace.
In 2012, Pistorius became the first amputee to compete in the Olympics. But this glory was short-lived after he fatally shot Steenkamp through a bathroom door at their Pretoria home, saying he had mistaken her for an intruder.
Scholtz testified that Pistorius was still on medication for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. The psychologist said he would recommend hospitalization if Pistorius were a regular patient.
Pistorius initially was convicted of culpable homicide, but South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal in December overturned the conviction and handed him the more serious verdict of murder. Pistorius appeared shaken throughout the trial, looking gaunt and dazed and throwing his head into his hands at times.
Pistorius is expected to learn his fate by Friday.
Here’s what else you need to know:
Hasn’t he been sentenced already?
After a nearly 50-day trial stretched over seven months, Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide (much like manslaughter) in September 2014. Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled the sprinter had acted negligently when he shot Steenkamp four times through a locked bathroom door but that he didn’t do it intentionally. The Supreme Court of Appeal later changed that conviction to murder.
Why was the verdict changed?
The appeals court ruled that the identity of whoever was behind the bathroom door was irrelevant. Pistorius should have foreseen that his action would kill that person, but he went ahead anyway. The key legal principle is known as dolus eventualis.
Is he in prison?
No, Pistorius is at his uncle’s mansion under house arrest. Pistorius spent about a year in a private cell in the hospital wing of a maximum-security prison. He should have gotten out after 10 months, or a sixth of his sentence, but a South African minister intervened. Pistorius could be going straight back to the cell after the sentencing hearing.
What to look out for at this sentencing
It will be the first time the public gets a good look at Pistorius since the first sentencing hearing. The defense has tried to paint a picture of a “broken man” and will likely focus on the media coverage and public treatment of Pistorius as one of its arguments. On the prosecution side, a family member or close friend of Steenkamp’s may be brought as a witness to offer emotional testimony.
What sort of time will Pistorius do?
The sentence for murder in South Africa is 15 years, but the defense will argue the judge has some discretion to reduce the jail time and include time already served. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel is unlikely to go for the lower end of the sentencing spectrum. The trial judge, Masipa, will be handing down the sentence.