On Friday afternoon, a South African judge dismissed an appeal by prosecutors seeking to lengthen Oscar Pistorius’ prison term. Pistorius, a former Paralympic and Olympic sprinter, received a six-year sentence for manslaughter following the 2013 shooting death of ex-girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Indignant prosecutors referred to Pistorius’ sentence as “shockingly too lenient” and petitioned Thokozile Masipa, the high-profile case’s original judge, to extend the double-amputee Olympian’s prison stay to at least 15 years.
However, Judge Masipa cited several mitigating factors as reason for denying the prosecutors’ request. Masipa stated the following in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, per the New York Times.
“I am not persuaded that there are reasonable prospects of success for an appeal. The life of the accused will never be the same … He is a fallen hero, who has lost his career, and been ruined financially. He cannot be at peace.”
Pistorius gained world-wide notoriety by becoming the first athlete to compete in both the Paralympic and Olympic games. At just 11 months of age, the five-time Paralympic medalist had both legs amputated below the knee. During his meteoric rise to fame, Pistorius’ name became synonymous with courage and redefining what is possible.
With his status as an iconic figure at its zenith, Pistorius’ fans received a disheartening jolt when the folk-hero’s reputation became sullied by allegations of — and an eventual conviction for — the crime of murder.
The early morning of Feb. 14, 2013, saw Oscar Pistorius’ life forever change as he fatally shot model/girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his Pretoria home. During the trial, an emotional Pistorius claimed he believed his former partner was an intruder. The state countered that he shot her in a fit of rage following a heated disagreement.
While Pistorius’ trial received substantial media coverage, the once-revered sportsman’s legacy has degenerated to infamy. Even so, many perceive his official punishment as a “slap on the wrist.”
After learning of Pistorius’ sentence, Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said the verdict was “shockingly light and that the judge should have given the history-making athlete a 15-year minimum starting point, as Steenkamp had suffered a horrendous death.”
Furthermore, Nel asserted that Pistorius never offered an acceptable explanation for firing four shots through the bathroom door.
“The fact that Pistorius fired four shots using hollow point bullets that are designed to inflict maximum damage meant the possibility of death was more likely and should have been an aggravating factor.”
In defense of her jurisprudence, Masipa buttressed her “mitigating factor” stance by stating Pistorius was vulnerable on his stumps, believed there was an intruder, tried to save Steenkamp’s life and was genuinely remorseful.
The judge ultimately concluded these circumstances outweighed the aggravating factors, which she listed as use of a high-grade lethal weapon, firing four times with no warning shot, and “knowing full well” there was someone inside the bathroom.
During the 2014 trial, a contrite Pistorius stated his innocence by claiming his shots fired were of a protective nature.
“I wake up every morning and you’re the first people I think of, the first people I pray for. I can’t imagine the pain and the sorrow and the emptiness that I’ve caused you and your family. I was simply trying to protect Reeva. I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved.”
Ms. Steenkamp’s mother, June Steenkamp, watched stony-faced as Pistorius spoke.
Reeva Steenkamp was a South African model and paralegal born in Capetown. Steenkamp, 29, was a burgeoning TV personality at the time of her death. In 2011 FHM magazine ranked Steenkamp No. 40 on its famed “100 Sexiest Women in the World” poll for South Africa.
Oscar Pistorius was not present for Friday’s legal proceeding. While his sentence is currently set at six-years, the National Prosecuting Authority can still petition the country’s Supreme Court of Appeal to rule on the matter.