Pistorius faces sentencing over girlfriend's death after divisive trial

Sun Oct 12, 2014 7:40am EDT
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PRETORIA (Reuters) - Disgraced South African track star Oscar Pistorius returns to court on Monday to find out whether he will serve a long stretch behind bars for the negligent killing of his model girlfriend, or walk out a free man.

After a six-month, on-off trial that captivated South Africa, and millions more around the world who admired Pistorius as a symbol of triumph over physical adversity, opinion is starkly divided on the eventual outcome.

A non-custodial sentence would likely spark public anger, fuelling a perception among black South Africans that, 20 years after the end of apartheid, wealthy whites can still secure preferential justice.

The Paralympic and Olympic athlete, whose lower legs were amputated as a baby, was convicted of culpable homicide last month for the Valentine's Day shooting of 29-year-old law graduate Reeva Steenkamp.

Judge Thokozile Masipa cleared the 27-year-old of the more serious charge of murder, saying prosecutors had failed to prove Pistorius' intent to kill when he fired four 9mm rounds through the door of a toilet cubicle, in what he said was the mistaken belief an intruder was lurking behind it.

A murder conviction would have almost certainly carried a jail sentence. Culpable homicide, South Africa's equivalent of manslaughter, can be punished by anything from 15 years in jail to a suspended sentence or community service.

In a front page headline on Friday, South Africa's Times newspaper cited experts saying: 'Oscar won't go to jail'. Conversely, Johannesburg's Star said he was likely to get as many as 10 years behind bars, with a portion suspended.

At the sentencing hearing, Masipa is likely to hear arguments from prosecution and defense, possibly for as long as a day each, and psychological and probation experts before making her ruling.


South African Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius listens to the verdict in his trial at the high court in Pretoria September 12, 2014. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko