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South African Court More Than Doubles Oscar Pistorius's Prison Sentence for Murder

David Meyer
South African Court More Than Doubles Oscar Pistorius's Prison Sentence for Murder

Oscar Pistorius, the former Paralympian track runner who murdered his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp four years ago, has had his sentence more than doubled to 13 years and five months.

The sentence would have been 15 years, only it was reduced to take into account time already served, South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal said Friday.

Pistorius was once best known for winning gold at the 2004 Athens Paralympics and for successfully fighting to compete in the 2012 London Olympics alongside able-bodied runners. Born without fibulas, his lower legs were amputated before he was one year old, and the prosthetics he wore to compete earned him the nickname of “Blade Runner.”

But on the night of Valentine’s Day 2013, Pistorius killed Steenkamp, his girlfriend at the time, while she was in the bathroom. He shot her four times through the door of the bathroom, which was attached to his bedroom.

Pistorius claimed he thought she was an intruder. After a high-profile trial, he was in 2014 convicted of culpable homicide and sentenced to five years in jail, of which he served 10 months before being put under house arrest.

South African state prosecutors appealed the judgement on the basis that the original judge had erred on the issue of whether Pistorius had realized what his actions would cause. On the basis that shooting repeatedly through the door would predictably have killed the person on the other side, the Supreme Court of Appeal changed the verdict to a murder conviction last year, with a six-year jail term.

Murders usually earn a minimum sentence of 15 years in South Africa, but the judge said Pistorius had been vulnerable on his stumps, and had tried to save Steenkamp’s life after shooting her.

The prosecutors appealed again, claiming the six-year sentence was “shockingly low.” And again, they were successful, with the country’s highest court of appeal agreeing on Friday to increase it.

“The sentence…with respect to murder is set aside and substituted with the following: the respondent’s imprisonment for 13 years and five months,” said Judge Legoabe Willie Seriti, according to News 24.