In the early hours of February 14, 2013, South African Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius fired four shots through his bathroom door, killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. It has taken years for courts to settle on a conviction and a corresponding sentence, but on Wednesday a ruling was made. How long will Pistorius be in prison?
Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled to give Pistorius a six-year prison term in what was the second case she ruled in regarding the killing, CNN reported. He will have to serve at least half of that time — three years — before he can be considered for parole. Masipa also served as judge in Pistorius' first case in 2014, giving him five years in prison for the charge of culpable homicide. Pistorius served one year of that term, then went home to complete the rest of the sentence under house arrest.
Masipa initially ruled that Pistorius, though he acted with negligence, did not intend to kill his girlfriend; the defense team argued that Pistorius thought there was an intruder in the bathroom and feared for his life. But Masipa's initial ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals in December 2015, and a new trial was conducted as prosecutors sought a murder conviction and the corresponding 15-year prison sentence, according to CNN.
The second time around, Pistorius was convicted of murder. But Masipa issued a reduced sentence, believing Pistorius to be genuinely remorseful for his action. As CNN reported, the judge stated, "It must be one of the most difficult things for any accused to have to face the victims of his crime and to apologize."
Pistorius' defense team argued for reduced sentencing on the grounds of Pistorius' anxiety disorder and physical disability; he was born without lower legs and wears prostheses. Defense Attorney Barry Roux told the court, "He suffers from an anxiety disorder. We know that ... when he was on his stumps, his balance was seriously compromised, and without anything he won't be able to defend himself." Roux was arguing that it would be extremely difficult for Pistorius in jail and trying to persuade the judge that he was scared the night he picked up the gun and shot Steenkamp.
The prosecutors in the case felt that Pistorius' initial sentence of five years was "shockingly light," BBC reported. It is possible for them to appeal Masipa's second ruling, but unclear whether they will do so. According to CNN, Pistorius' defense team has said it will not appeal the ruling.
Reeva Steenkamp was a model who earned her law degree from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in 2005 in pursuit of a future legal career. She was scheduled to give a speech to young girls about domestic abuse the day she died. She would have been 33 in August.