Pistorius faces return to jail as judge sets murder sentence

Oscar Pistorius faces a possible 15 years in jail for killing his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, with the judge who originally convicted him of manslaughter assigned to hand down a sentence for a murder verdict imposed by the South African Supreme Court of Appeal.

High Court Judge Thokozile Masipa is due to decide on the sentence at a hearing starting Monday in Pretoria, the capital, at the same court where the Paralympic gold medalist was tried for shooting Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day in 2013 with four hollow-point bullets through a locked toilet door. In its decision in December to impose a murder conviction, the Supreme Court cited “errors of law” in Masipa’s original manslaughter verdict.

“Her hand has been twisted in the sense that the Supreme Court has said to her, ‘Well you were wrong in giving him a sentence on culpable homicide,”’ Marius du Toit, a criminal-defense lawyer at Du Toit Attorneys Pretoria, said by phone. “There’s nothing that justifies a sentence of more than 15 years. I would think that the court might give him 10 years.”

Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic blades, Pistorius, 29, was granted 10,000-rand ($657) bail and ordered to remain under house arrest after the Supreme Court imposed the murder conviction in Dec. 3. He’s been serving part of his previous five-year sentence for culpable homicide at his uncle’s home.

While Pistorius said he shot Steenkamp in the belief she was an intruder, the Supreme Court decided that he must have known the bullets would have killed whomever was behind the door. The Constitutional Court ruled on March 3 that Pistorius couldn’t appeal the murder conviction.

Since the shooting, Pistorius lost sponsorship deals with companies including Nike Inc., Luxottica Group SpA’s Oakley and Ossur hf.

Pistorius won six Paralympic gold medals and was the first double-amputee runner to compete at the Olympic Games. He was born without fibula in both legs, which were amputated when he was 11 months old.

~Bloomberg