The devastating hollow-point bullets fired by Oscar Pistorius from his powerful handgun “ripped” through Reeva Steenkamp’s body, the chief prosecutor said Friday at the athlete’s sentencing hearing, urging a judge to send him to prison for causing a terrible death.
“When I think about that, it must have been horrific,” prosecutor Gerrie Nel said.
Mr. Nel was presenting his final argument ahead of the sentencing of the double-amputee Olympic runner, who was acquitted of murder but found guilty of culpable homicide in his girlfriend’s shooting death. Culpable homicide is comparable to manslaughter.
Judge Thokozile Masipa could issue a suspended jail sentence and a fine, order the 27-year-old Pistorius to go under house arrest, or send him to prison for up to 15 years.
Pistorius’ lawyers have argued for a three-year sentence of occasional house arrest and community service and no jail time, saying Pistorius has suffered emotionally and financially already, and would be under duress in prison because of his disability as a double amputee.
Prosecutors want Pistorius sent to prison. Nel called a house arrest sentence “shockingly disproportionate” to what Pistorius did in the pre—dawn hours of Valentine’s Day last year when he shot four times through a toilet cubicle door in his home, hitting Steenkamp in the head, arm and hip.
“The deceased died in a small cubicle behind a closed door,” Nel said. “Three bullets ripped through her body.”
Pistorius’ chief defense lawyer, Barry Roux, earlier said the world-famous athlete did not act with any “deviousness” when he killed Steenkamp, and acted while feeling extremely vulnerable and anxious. Pistorius testified he mistook Steenkamp for a dangerous intruder in his home and claimed the shooting was a tragic accident.
“The accused’s actions were to some extent dominated by vulnerability and anxiety,” Roux said to the red—robed judge. “When you come to sentence ... you have to look at the actions with his frame of mind.”
Roux said there was “no deviousness” and “no conscious unlawfulness” from Pistorius. He also described Pistorius’ suffering, both emotional and financial, since the Feb. 14, 2013 shooting.
“He’s lost everything,” Roux said of Pistorius, once an inspirational figure who became the first amputee to run at the Olympics. “He was an icon in the eyes of South Africans.”
Pistorius at one point cried as he sat on a wooden bench behind his lawyer.
“He’s not only broke, but he’s broken. There is nothing left of this man,” Roux said. He said that Pistorius “hasn’t even the money to pay for legal expenses. He has nothing left.”
Roux and Nel were summing up four days of testimony at the end of the sentencing hearing. The judge was not expected to announce Pistorius’ sentence on Friday.