Pistorius faces sentencing over girlfriend's death

Mon Oct 13, 2014 5:33am EDT
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By Peroshni Govender

PRETORIA (Reuters) - Disgraced South African track star Oscar Pistorius arrived at the Pretoria High Court on Monday for a sentencing hearing that will determine whether he serves jail time for the negligent killing of his girlfriend, or walks out a free man.

A stony-faced Pistorius stared straight ahead as police officers escorted him into the court building. He declined to answer questions from the scrum of reporters but greeted his family inside the court with smiles and hugs.

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 be likely to 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.

"At the end of the day a young lady was killed and someone should pay for it," said 57-year-old Mildred Lekalakala, a member of the Women's League of the ruling African National Congress.

The 27-year-old 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 and model Reeva Steenkamp.

Judge Thokozile Masipa cleared Pistorius of the more serious charge of murder, saying prosecutors had failed to prove his 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 hiding 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.   Continued...

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius speaks with a member of his defence team ahead of sentencing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, October 13, 2014. REUTERS/Marco Longari/Pool