Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee Olympian and South African track hero who shot his model girlfriend in his home in February 2013, was given five years in prison by a judge who deemed the sentence a show of mercy as much as it was a penalty.
Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp through a locked bathroom door, claiming he thought an intruder had broken in. He was found guilty of culpable homicide after a lengthy, emotional trial. Judge Thokozile Masipa cited the “gross negligence” the erstwhile “Blade Runner” showed when he shot Steenkamp multiple times.
Pistorius didn’t show emotion as his sentence was read, which was unlike his constant outbursts of tears during the trial. His prison term begins immediately, and he was led down a flight of stairs and toward holding cells before leaving the South African courthouse in an armored vehicle.
Pistorius could be released after 10 months in jail to serve the remainder under house arrest, according to legal experts.
Masipa said of her sentence: “I am of the view that a noncustodial sentence would send a wrong message to the community. On the other hand, a long sentence would not be appropriate, either, as it would lack the element of mercy.”
Masipa last month convicted Pistorius of culpable homicide but acquitted him of murder after he testified he mistook Steenkamp for a nighttime intruder. She asked Pistorius to stand as she delivered the sentence Tuesday, and he faced her with his hands clasped in front of him. Pistorius was then led away by police, stopping briefly to grip the hands of his uncle and other family members as he headed to prison.
Steenkamp’s parents were also in court to hear the sentence, and Steenkamp’s mother, June, said justice had been done. A close friend of Steenkamp, Gina Myers, said, “I really don’t think any of us will heal anytime soon. … There will always be questions.”
Prosecutors said they are considering whether to appeal the sentence, where Pistorius, 27, could serve less than a year in jail for killing his 29-year-old girlfriend.
Nathi Mncube, the prosecution spokesman, said his office was disappointed in the culpable homicide conviction and had not yet decided whether to appeal the sentence.
“We have not made up our minds whether we’re going to appeal it or not,” he said. He added that there was an “appetite” to appeal but that prosecutors would review their options.
“We are satisfied with the fact that he will be serving some time in prison,” Mncube said.
Masipa had a wide range of options available to her because South Africa does not have a minimum sentence for culpable homicide, which is comparable to manslaughter. Pistorius faced up to 15 years in jail but could also have received a completely suspended sentence or house arrest.