Oscar Pistorius, the South African athlete convicted of murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, had his sentence more than doubled by South Africa’s Supreme Court last Friday.
In 2013, Pistorius shot Steenkamp four times through the locked door of the second-floor bathroom in his Pretoria house. During his trial, Pistorius claimed that he thought Steenkamp was an intruder and he shot her in self-defense. The prosecution argued that the shooting was a deliberate retribution after the two had argued.
In 2014, Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide and given a five-year sentence. In December 2015, the sentence was overturned, and Pistorius was found guilty of murder. During his 2016 sentencing, High Court Judge Thokozile Masipa argued for reducing his sentence from the usual 15-year minimum for murder, as she believed the “fallen hero” was genuinely remorseful and would be a good candidate for rehabilitative justice. Pistorius was sentenced to six years in prison.
Judge Masipa’s sentence was highly controversial and many believed that Pistorius had gotten a lesser sentence because he was a rich, white celebrity. State prosecutors on the case called the sentence “shockingly lenient,” and appealed to have it lengthened. On November 24th, the Supreme Court of Appeals passed down a new sentence: 13 years and five months, which is the 15-year minimum for murder with the time he had already served subtracted.
During the current trial the SCA argued that Pistorius “does not appreciate the gravity of his actions.” In his decision on the matter, presiding Supreme Court Justice Willie Seriti said: “I find it difficult on the evidence to accept that the respondent is genuinely remorseful.” Justice Seiti also remarked that the panel of five judges on the case had unanimously voted to increase his sentence.
Pistorius’ lawyers can still appeal to South Africa’s Constitutional Court, the highest court in the nation. But the court already rejected Pistorius’ 2016 challenge to his murder conviction, where lawyers argued that the SCA had “acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally.”
The longer sentence has been a relief to Steenkamp’s family. “This is an emotional thing for them. They just feel that their trust in the justice system has been confirmed this morning,” Tania Koen, a spokeswoman for the family, told reporters. Koen went on to say that the family hopes that the decision is “the end of the road and that everyone can move forward.”
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