More than four years after the Paralympian shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, Oscar Pistorius was in court receiving a longer prison sentence on Friday. Claiming that he was not "genuinely remorseful," the South African supreme court of appeal lengthened his sentence for murder from six years to 15. That likely ends what was a long judicial saga. Pistorius killed Steenkamp on Valentine's Day in 2013; he says he mistook her for a burglar.
The news was welcomed by Steenkamp's family. The lawyer and model was just 29 when she was killed. Her parents Barry and June were "emotional" when the watched the verdict at home, the family lawyer Tania Koen told the Associated Press. "They feel there has been justice for Reeva. She can now rest in peace,” Koen told the AP. “But at the same time, people must realize that people think this is the end of the road for them ... the fact is they still live with Reeva’s loss every day.”
Pistorius' family found the news harder. "Shattered. Heartbroken. Gutted," wrote Pistorius' brother Carl on Twitter. When a follower responded, saying that is what Steenkamp's family is feeling, Carl added, "We have all suffered incomprehensible loss. The death of Reeva was and still is a great loss for our family too."
Pistorius does have the option to appeal the sentence one last time to the he constitutional court, the top court in South Africa. But most analysts don't think he will, given that the court upheld his murder conviction last year. The judicial process that seemingly ended on Friday was a long one.
He was first convicted for a lesser count of culpable homicide in 2014 that came with a five-year sentence by a judge, Thokozile Masipa. He only served 10 months before being moved to house arrest. Then the prosecutors appealed his conviction and asked for a murder conviction from the supreme court of appeal which was granted in 2016. But it was still up to Masipa, the same original judge, to sentence him.
He was then sentenced to six years, despite that the usual minimum for murder is 15 years unless there are special circumstances. The five-judge panel decided to reinstate that minimum sentence, save for the time that Pistorius has already served. That means that from Friday he has 13 years and five months.
The decision was briefly announced by the supreme court justice Willie Seriti, but there was a written judgment too. It explained that Pistorius did not ever explain to the court why he fired the shots, which meant that he could not be considered "genuinely remorseful."
The written judgement says the first court "erred in deviating from the prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years' imprisonment" for murder. "The sentence of six years' imprisonment is shockingly lenient to a point where it has the effect of trivializing this serious offense," the supreme court of appeals ruling reads.
In part that's because according to South African law, the court needs to know "what motivated the accused to commit the deed; what has since provoked his or her change of heart; and whether he or she does indeed have a true appreciation of the consequences of those actions" in order to find someone "remorseful" for reduced sentencing:
He failed to take the court fully in his confidence despite having an opportunity to do so during the second sentencing proceedings. It is clear herefrom that the respondent is unable to appreciate the crime he has committed. The logical consequence is that the respondent displays a lack of remorse, and does not appreciate the gravity of his actions.
They noted he had apologized to Steenkamp's family, but that did not fulfill the court's requirements. The earliest Pistorius will be eligible for parole is 2023.