After an emotional trial which saw tears from both the defense and prosecution, former South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius has been sentenced to six years in prison for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The verdict comes after a lengthy trial process, in which Pistorius was originally sentenced with manslaughter, and later murder, which could have seen the former athlete serving South Africa's minimum 15-year sentence for the crime. After the judge's decidedly more lenient sentence, Steenkamp's family reacted with quiet but sad dignity while leaving the courtroom.
Pistorius originally served ten months of a five-and-a-half year sentence after being found guilty of culpable homicide of Steenkamp, whom he shot four times through a bathroom door in his home. He's claimed that he believed Steenkamp was an intruder. After the original verdict was successfully appealed by prosecutors, the conviction was upgraded to murder, and his re-sentencing trial began in December 2015.
The Steenkamp family's reaction to the new sentence was far less visibly emotional than some of their testimony. Dup De Bruyn, a lawyer who represented the Steenkamps, spoke of their response after the sentencing: "There is nothing [the family] can do about the sentence. Nothing will bring Reeva back. The best thing to do is maintain a dignified silence." Reporters on the scene likewise said that there was little reaction from the family, and that the courtroom was quiet overall.
This silence serves in direct contrast to the family's emotional pleas during the trial. Steenkamp's father gave testimony that his grief caused him to harm himself. "At times I thought, with the pain Reeva went through, I didn’t know if I was going mental. I took my diabetes injection and shoved it into my arms and stomach to see if I could feel the same pain," he told the court in mid-June, making stabbing motions toward himself while on the stand. He said that, while Steenkamp's mother had been able to forgive Pistorius, their lives were "changed completely." He continued, "I don't wish that on any human being. It devastates us. I think of Reeva all the time."
All of this likely lies behind the Steenkamp family's reaction to the sentencing. When asked for his thoughts on the six-year sentence, Mr. Steenkamp simply told reporters that he was "pleased the trial was over, but that life will never be the same."