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JUDGE GIVES OSCAR 6 YEAR PRISON SENTENCE
Oscar is in prison as we speak. As Nick was leaving the courthouse, he saw the procession of police officers and a van speeding by with Oscar in tow. He watched them turn into the lot for Kgosi Mampuru prison. I wonder if Mashabane had a welcoming gift waiting for him… some cookies, some rub rub… maybe some itching powder in his sheets?
Oscar will need to serve 2/3 of his sentence [approximately 3-4 years] before being eligible for parole.
Nick and I share our reaction…
Watch the full sentencing video here…
Just prior to delivering Oscar’s sentence, Masipa says this…
Masipa: What was evident from the testimony of both Mr. Steenkamp and Mrs. Martin is that their lives shall never be the same. Details of what they went through and are still going through as a family have been described abound. Thankfully, healing has already started as both Mr. Steenkamp and Mrs. Steenkamp have stated that they have forgiven the accused.
Oh really, healing has started? Does Barry Steenkamp jamming needles into his leg in order to feel pain sound like healing?
Masipa: The life of the accused will also never be the same. He’s a fallen hero who has lost his career and is ruined financially. The worst that haven taken the life of a fellow human being in the manner that he did, he cannot be at peace. It came as no surprise therefore when both Mr. [Maurius] Nel, his [Oscar’s] pastor, and Professor Scholtz described him as a broken man.
It’s a low blow on Masipa’s part to use the Steenkamp’s “forgiving” Oscar as part of mitigation. Forgiveness because of religious belief or obligation is not the same as pardoning somebody for murdering your child. She’s exploiting what they’ve said to help her justify her sympathy for Oscar.
Masipa: Recovery is possible but it will depend mostly on the accused’s attitude to the punishment imposed on him. This court is aware that the accused through his pastor has shown a willingness and a wish to do community work as punishment. That is a noble gesture. [Masipa stops reading and looks up directly at Oscar, and pauses] …however punishment is not what you choose to do. It is something that is imposed on you. By it’s very nature, punishment is unpleasant, it is uncomfortable, it is painful and it’s inconvenient. It is certainly not what you love to do.
That, I agree with.
Masipa: I have considered the evidence in this matter, the submissions and arguments by counsel, as well as the relevant case law and other authorities. Although a custodial sentence is the proper sentence, I am of the view that…
a long term of imprisonment will not serve justice in this matter
Masipa: The accused has already served a sentence of 12 months imprisonment, he is a first offender, and considering the facts of this matter, he is not likely to reoffend. The sentence that I impose will have to reflect not only that fact but also the seriousness of the offense. It will, in so far as it is possible, have to be fair to the accused, as well as to the deceased family and society at large.
Highlights of Masipa’s reasoning…
Masipa: I have to consider several factors namely the offender, the offense, and the interests of society as well as the victims of the offense.
Not surprising that she mentions the victims last. She says the main purposes of punishment are:
Masipa: Retribution, deterrence, prevention and rehabilitation.
Masipa: Lastly, because of the nature of the offense that the accused has been found guilty of, I have to determine whether there exists substantial and compelling circumstances justifying the imposition of a lesser sentence than 15 years imprisonment which is the prescribed minimum sentence in this case.
Her voice trails off at the end, and she takes a long pause before continuing.
Masipa says it’s not necessary to go through all of the evidence in detail for this sentencing exercise, BUT…
Masipa: The only evidence that shall be set out in detail is that of Professor Scholtz only because of its nature… and the detailed report he compiled.
That report, as usual, was only given to Nel about 10 minutes prior to the beginning of court during the sentencing hearing. The same game that the defense played throughout the entire trial and that Masipa never admonished them for.
Professor Scholtz – a clinical psychologist who also assessed the accused during the trial in 2014. He obtained permission from proper authorities to be a part of the sentencing so there were no conflicts of interest. Masipa’s summary of his evidence.
Masipa: The accused displayed signs & symptoms of PTSD, anxiety disorder & depressive disorder. [She stumbles badly while trying to read her own writing.] His short term memory was compromised. The accused’s condition was so severe that he would not be able to testify in the proceedings. He also formed an opinion that he should be hospitalized since his condition worsened since 2014.
Ebba – From Iceland. She got to know about the accused 11 years ago when pregnant and she found out son would be born without legs. Her mom wrote to Oscar who then responded unexpectedly that it would be a pleasure for him to help however he could. Since, he’s visited family often and cares for them.
Marius Nel – Pastor from 3C Ministries in Centurion. Oscar was a member of his ministry. While in jail, he often visited and prayed with Oscar and found him to be a “broken man.” The ministry assists disadvantaged children and the possibility of Oscar helping them out with athletics training was discussed.
Some points that Masipa highlights regarding Oscar’s circumstances…
Masipa: During his incarceration, the accused completed a number of courses and workshops as part of his rehabilitation program. According to Prof Scholtz, the accused’s views about possession and use of firearms has changed. He sold all his firearms and never wants to touch a firearm again. He’s not anti-social or psychopathic, he is currently enrolled for a BSc degree at University of London. Prof Scholtz views that the accused’s mental health has deteriorated since 2014. He states, and I quote: ‘since the offense he has developed a serious psychiatric condition which has got worse over the past two years. Major depression and PTSD. His level of anxiety has also increased. He has become isolated and fearful of venturing out in public.’
Though apparently not fearful enough to go grocery shopping, to church or for walks… all things Roux mentioned in his arguments.
Masipa goes on to talk about Scholtz citing Oscar dealing with intense media attention due to his international profile. She fails to mention it’s the same media that he greatly benefited from when times were good… prior to him, due to his own poor choices, becoming a criminal.
Masipa does throw a bone to Mashabane. She says that Oscar’s reports [given to Scholtz] about poor treatment in prison were unsubstantiated and that Mashabane was credible. The camera pans to Oscar and he has his eyes closed as in deep thought. As soon as Masipa continues and says that she was however giving all of that little weight… Oscar opens his eyes and perks up. [16:08]
Masipa: Murder is always a serious crime. The fact that the accused though it was an intruder does not make it less serious. Serious as the crime is, for purposes of sentencing, it is always useful to place facts that led to the particular murder in perspective. The short background of circumstances in which the crime was committed is therefore important.
Masipa: In the early hours of February 14, 2013, the accused shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, the deceased, in his home in Pretoria. At the trial, the accused had explained that he mistakenly shot and killed the deceased [Oscar now attempts to cry – a clearly very forced effort, wipes his nose, but no tears [18:07]] through the locked toilet door in his bathroom as he thought then that there was an intruder who had entered the house through the bathroom window and who posed a threat to him and the deceased.
At the time of the shooting, he was on his stumps. When he discovered HIS MISTAKE he put on his prosthetic legs and using the cricket bat to bash open the door, he was able to unlock it and reach the deceased. The accused picked her up and took her downstairs hoping to get her to hospital. Minutes later, still at the accused house, the deceased was declared dead by paramedics. Witnesses who saw the accused soon after the incident told the court that the accused looked distraught.
Dr. Stipp, a neighbor and state witness, who had earlier heard what he had referred to as shots and screams, had no doubt that the accused’s distress was genuine. There was also evidence that the accused was crying, and calling upon God to intervene.
Not withstanding the above circumstances, it is worth repeating, that the murder is a serious offense. In the present case, the murder weapon in the form of a firearm was used and the results were devastating. The fact that the murder took place under circumstances as described above does not in any way make the offense any less serious.
Masipa: I now deal with the interests of society. The interests of society demand that people who commit serious crimes, such as murder, be punished severely. The interests of society that are considered and protected however must be legitimate interests.
Counsel for the defense correctly submitted that there was an unfortunate perception in the minds of some people that on the night of the murder, there was an argument between the accused and that this is what led to the murder of the deceased. [Barry looks off to his left with eyes down. He looks defeated.]
The existence of such a perception was inadvertently confirmed by the father of the deceased, Barry Steenkamp, who during the course of his evidence let slip this very perception. That counsel for the state stopped Mr. Steenkamp from proceeding any further does not change the fact that such a perception does exist. It therefore cannot be ignored by this court.
The unfortunate part of it is that there is not a shred of evidence placed before this court that supports such a perception.
Except for this…
Masipa: Courts deal with facts placed before them, not with assumptions and not with suspicions. The fact that an accused may not have taken the court into his confidence or that he lied in certain respects does not give such court the right to speculate against the accused and to act on such speculations.
Huh? An accused lying to the court should just be accepted and not questioned? In the absence of a videotape, where we can see a crime committed with our own two eyes, doesn’t every case have some element of speculation? Masipa also doesn’t seem to care that lying to a court is perjury, also a crime.
There is no evidence at all that the deceased was in an abusive relationship
Masipa moves on to Reeva, who she refers to as “the deceased and her family”…
Masipa: The deceased was young, vivacious, full of life and hope for the future. This picture was painted by the deceased’s father, Mr. Barry Steenkamp, and the deceased’s cousin, Kim Michelle Martin. Both told of the pain that the family has suffered and continues to suffer as a result of the deceased’s untimely death. Ms. Martin described the deceased as a loving and wonderful person. She stated as a family, they would never completely get over the death of the deceased. The deceased had plans, not only for herself, but for her parents as well. She supported her parents financially and expressed a wish to continue to do so to make their lives easy. According to Mr. Steenkamp, the deceased used to call home every weekend to speak to he and his wife separately. It is therefore not surprising that three years later, the family is still grieving. It is clear from the evidence that the Steenkamps had a very close bond and used to celebrate special occasions together as a family. Now, Christmas, birthdays and Valentines Day are a painful reminder that the deceased is no longer with them.
Masipa summarizes Barry’s testimony.
Masipa: The evidence of both Mr. Steenkamp and Ms. Martin shows that the pain runs deep and that the impact of the accused’s conduct on the family of the deceased has been devastating.
Ms. Martin told this court that the family is anxious and depressed. They’ve [also] been exposed to the media. She is loath to meet people or go places as she never knows when someone might say something about the deceased, the accused or about the incident.. She however has to cope and go on with her life for the sake of her children. That fact is relevant and must be taken into the court’s consideration in the sentencing process.
Masipa addresses the aggravation vs. mitigation…
Masipa: Each case must be decided on its own peculiar facts. A useful point of departure therefore is a proper investigation of the pertinent facts and circumstances in the present matter. In addition, to answer the question whether there exists substantial and compelling circumstances, justifying a lesser sentence, courts must also consider aggravating factors as well as mitigating factors in a particular matter.
- The accused used a lethal weapon, a high caliber firearm and ammunition, and fired not one, but four shots into the toilet door, knowing full well that there was someone behind the door.
- The toilet was a small cubicle and there was no room for escape for the person behind the door.
- The accused had been trained in the use of, and in handling, firearms.
- He used the firearm without taking precaution of firing a warning shot as found by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
- The accused approached the bathroom in the belief that an intruder had entered his house.
- At the time he was without his prosthesis and felt vulnerable.
- His belief that there was an intruder in the house is supported by his actions when he realized it was the deceased in the toilet. Details of the sequence of events after the shooting, most of which were not disputed, are on record. The accused immediately took steps to try to save the deceased life. She refers to Dr. Stipp again saying he believed this as well. He begged God for help, etc, etc. She points out quite adamantly that the state never contradicted Stipp’s evidence.
Masipa: [Counsel for the state] reiterated the accused showed no remorse as he did not come clean before this court. I disagree. At the commencement of the proceedings, the accused apologized to the family of the deceased. This public apology could easily have been interpreted as a ploy to gain public sympathy had it not been for the fact that the accused had previously and unsuccessfully tried to meet the parents of the deceased to apologize for the pain he had caused them and to ask for forgiveness.
What weighs heavy with me amongst other things was the request was repeated more than once. This court was informed that after his release from incarceration, the accused tried once more to approach the deceased’s family with an apology without success. Mr. Steenkamp confirmed that the accused had made such a request through lawyers but the Steenkamp family was not yet ready to meet the accused.
It is my view that it must be one of the most difficult things for any accused to have to face the victims of his crime and apologize. It is highly improbable therefore that the accused would persist in his request to meet the parents of the deceased and ask forgiveness if he was not genuinely remorseful. [38:27] [Jenna shakes her head in agreement.]
Counsel for the state submitted further that in the event the court found that the substantial and compelling circumstances exist justifying a lesser sentence than the prescribed minimum sentence [15 years] the courts still ought to impose a very long term of imprisonment on the basis that the crime the accused was found guilty of bordered on Dolus Directus. I disagree with this submission.
I have taken all of the above into consideration and am of the view that mitigating circumstances outweigh the aggravating factors.
[39:36] The Steenkamps exchange glances of disgust. And the investigators in the front row mumble a few words to each other.
This is why nothing ever changes….
Does “life” really handle its own? If that were true, why do murders continue to happen?
9:45am – Right off the bat, even though Masipa can’t read her own damn writing and fumbles all over the place, there’s an air of this leaning in favor of Oscar…
9:40am – Oscar is noticeably much calmer, less drugged, less emotional than the sentencing hearing. Only once did I see him try to muster a tear. Other than that – he was bone dry, looking rather stone-faced.
9:37am – Masipa’s on the stand. Tells Oscar to sit until its time for her to read sentence.
9:31am – Nick very surprised at the casual atmosphere: ‘Arnold smiling. Dunno they seem way too relaxed. Too comfortable, even Oscar. A day at the beach?’
9:30am – Here’s the seating order for the Pistorius clan: Henke, Aimee, Jenna, Arnold, Carl. Aimee was seen hugging Henke. Oscar was seen hugging everyone (again).
9:29am – Uncle Arnold has a very keen eye on everyone in court. He glares out at the gallery as if to take note of everybody who was there.
9:27am – Batchelor tells Nick that when Oscar was testifying during trial, Aimee saw Marc in the coffee shop and told him ‘you disgust me.’
9:21am – Gina Myers is in court with her mom. She waves to Marc Batchelor. Marc and Nick have developed a bit of a rapport and Marc’s been helpful answering questions for us. I love this picture of him from trial back in 2014. That face says it all……
9:19am – Security is tight in the crowded courtroom. Guards telling Nick where he can/can’t go.
Hey… there’s @HiRezLife hard at work….
9:03am – Nick just had the pleasure of running into Henke as he was leaving the men’s room. Last fall, Nick photographed Nel coming out of the men’s room… Note to all men at Pretoria High Court… use Men’s Room at your own risk 🙂
9:02am – Oscar arrived just behind Roux & entourage… kinda scooted in behind everyone to avoid as much media as possible. Now inside, Nick says OP is chatting on his phone.
8:53am – Nick’s new buddy Marc Batchelor walked in with a hello as well. Marc’s chest looks like it’s about to explode out of his shirt.
8:52am – Carl Pistorius just arrived and said good morning to reporters. He’s wearing yellow socks and his suit has a slight metallic sheen.
8:48am – Colonial Van Aardt has arrived along with some of the Pistorius extended family.
8:43am – Barry and June Steenkamp, and Tania Koen and Dup de Bruyn have all arrived.
8:35am – Some of the legal correspondents on-scene talking about how whatever sentence Oscar gets, he must serve half of it. So if he gets 10 years, 5 years must be in prison.
8:30am – Ulrich Roux (sporting a beard) is getting ready to do interview with ANN7
Interesting streets signs in Pretoria… a little bit of somethin’ for everyone.
7:53am – Karyn Maughan is wearing spiffy blue rimmed glasses today. John Webb from Carte Blanche just sauntered by. Media scrum is starting to thicken.
7:49am – An official outside is telling people the court won’t open til 9:30am. Doesn’t sound accurate. Nick says it’s fairly subdued at the courthouse. Just feels like an ordinary day (so far).
7:08am – The weather in Pretoria today is not too cold, no clouds. Nick stopped by the convenience store and none of the papers had any mention of Oscar today.
Nick in Johannesburg today…
CARL’S CORNER…. He’s back!!
What does Twitter think?…