A South African court on Wednesday heard two different depictions of the athlete Oscar Pistorius, with his defence lawyer describing him as a vulnerable and frightened double-amputee who fired in panic, while the prosecution said he intended to kill.
The court in Pretoria is resentencing the 29-year-old this week for the killing of Reeva Steenkamp after an appeals court changed his initial manslaughter conviction into murder.
Pistorius fired four shots at his girlfriend through a locked toilet door at his home in Pretoria in the early hours of February 14, 2013. The 29-year-old model died at the scene.
Judge Thokozile Masipa accepted his version that he mistook her for a burglar, and sentenced him to five years. The verdict was overturned by the Court of Appeal in December and Masipa is now reviewing her sentence.
During the court session broadcast live by the television channel eNCA, defence lawyer Barry Roux said the double-amputee Olympic sprinter felt vulnerable on his stumps and feared for his life when hearing noise from the bathroom at night.
To stress his point, Roux made Pistorius - who seemed to be on the verge of tears - take off his prostheses in court and walk on his stumps.
He said Pistorius had successfully completed anger management programmes, that imprisonment was difficult for disabled people and that the athlete felt community service could put him "back into society."
Pistorius had already paid heavily for killing Steenkamp, Roux stressed. "He lost his future with his loved one," the lawyer said. "The accused has paid physically, losing his [psychological] health; financially, emotionally, socially, he is vilified. He is a broken man."
Roux said Pistorius "is punishing himself for the rest of his life far more than any court can punish him."
Prosecution lawyer Gerrie Nel argued for a 15-year prison sentence, which is normally the minimum for murder in South Africa. Even if Pistorius thought he was firing at an intruder, he nevertheless committed murder, the prosecutor stressed.
Nel rejected the image of Pistorius as vulnerable, saying he had developed excellent coping skills. The athlete fired at the door knowing the person behind it could not escape, the prosecutor said, stressing the suffering of the defenceless Reeva Steenkamp after she had been wounded.
Steenkamp's cousin Kim Martin testified about the pain her death had caused the family. "The scars, the effects run very, very deep," she said. "But I'm the mother of three children, I have to be strong for them."
After serving one year in prison, Pistorius was released into house arrest at his uncle's Pretoria mansion in October 2015.
The resentencing proceedings were expected to run until Friday.
Dubbed Blade Runner, Pistorius soared to international fame after becoming the first amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in the 2012 Olympic Games.
Pistorius' lower legs were amputated due to a congenital defect when he was less than one year old.
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