Prison would 'break' Pistorius: defense witness

Tue Oct 14, 2014 1:55pm EDT
 
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By Peroshni Govender

PRETORIA (Reuters) - South African athlete Oscar Pistorius would be "broken as a person" if he were jailed for killing his girlfriend because of his disability and psychological problems, a defense witness at his sentencing hearing said on Tuesday.

The 27-year-old Paralympic and Olympic athlete, whose lower legs were amputated as a baby, was convicted of culpable homicide last month for shooting dead his girlfriend, law graduate and model Reeva Steenkamp, 29, on Valentine's Day 2013.

Probation officer Annette Vergeer, who was paid by the defense to produce her report, said South African prisons were not conducive to the disabled and Pistorius would be vulnerable to violence and highly stressful situations.

"It will not assist him but break him as a person. The death of the deceased and the period since have been a far bigger punishment than incarceration," Vergeer told the court.

"His disability and state of mind would cause his detention to be an excessive punishment with no benefits to him, society and the deceased's family," she said.

Pistorius, dressed in a dark suit and tie, sat impassively in the packed courtroom as one of the most closely watched murder trials in history edged towards its conclusion.

The athlete has broken down in tears and retched into a bucket during the on-off, six-month trial. His psychologist told the court on Monday he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and sometimes spent sessions weeping.

On the first day of the hearing on Monday, a social worker recommended Pistorius be sentenced to partial house arrest and community service, which state prosecutor Gerrie Nel described as "shockingly inappropriate".   Continued...

 
Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius arrives at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, October 13, 2014.    REUTERS/Mike Hutchings