Oscar Pistorius' arguments for a lenient sentence have shocked some South Africans

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Marco Werman: Oscar Pistorius -- he can run really fast, but he can’t hide. The South African athlete, known as the “Blade Runner,” was cleared of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, but he was found guilty of negligent homicide and a sentencing hearing is underway. South African reporter Nastasya Tay has been covering the Pistorius murder trial. What happened today in court, this first day of the sentencing phase, Nastasya?

 

Nastasya Tay: Well Marco, we started with the defense starting off with their arguments, trying to push for a more lenient sentence for Oscar Pistorius. So, they’ve been calling witnesses. We heard from three of them today and there’s one more to go tomorrow. So, the first three included a prison official, who actually gave recommendations about what the sentence should be. We also heard from Oscar Pistorius’ personal psychologist, who’s been treating him since the incident. Now interestingly, that prison official, he says that Oscar Pistorius should be given three years of correctional supervision. That’s, in effect, house arrest. So, no guns, no booze, no drugs and he would be at home, only allowed to leave the house to go ahead and do work. But other than that, he’s also saying there should be 16 hours of community service a month -- in effect, really just two days a month of community service, which would involve Oscar Pistorius doing something like cleaning a local museum or scrubbing floors in a local hospital. Now, lots of people are saying that’s incredibly lenient, lots of shocked faces in court today.

 

Werman: The prosecutor said that this correctional supervision suggestion was shockingly inappropriate. Is that the overwhelming sense, that Pistorius needs more than that?

 

Tay: I think so. The issue is that the prosecution is trying to push for a much harsher sentence, and they’re saying that what’s at stake here is the culpability that was involved. So, he fired four shots through a closed door, knowing there was someone on the other side. He should be getting a much harsher sentence. We’ll be hearing much more from them in the coming days.

 

Werman: You mentioned the testimony given by Pistorius’ psychologist. Let’s hear what she said.

 

Lore Hartzenberg: We are left with a broken man who has lost everything. He has lost his love relationship with Miss Steenkamp. He has lost his moral and professional reputation. He has lost friends. He has lost his career, and therefore his earning potential and also his financial independence. On an emotional level, his self-perception, his self-worth and identity have been damaged.

 

Werman: How does Reeva Steenkamp’s family feel about that argument?

 

Tay: Well actually, it was prosecutor Gerrie Nel who pointed them out to that psychologist in court, saying “Look, Oscar Pistorius may be a broken man, but what about the Steenkamp family as well?” Reeva Steenkamp’s parents, Barry and June, were in court today, and they looked pretty stricken when they heard that testimony. In the next few days, when the prosecution starts calling their witnesses, they’ve told us that they’re going to be reading out a victim impact statement. That’s something that’s put together to really try to describe the consequences that Oscar Pistorius’ actions has had on other people. So, that’s going to be a pretty emotional day coming up later this week as well.

 

Werman: Nastasya, remind us when the trial started.

 

Tay: It started way back in March, and we are now 7 months away from that. I think everyone is looking forward to finally getting to the end, to hearing a sentence, and I’m sure Oscar Pistorius wants to actually learn his fate and be able to get on with his life.

 

Werman: And you’ve been there every day that court has been in session. What will be the one snapshot you take away from the Pistorius trial?

 

Tay: It was a moment when Oscar Pistorius sat down and took off prosthetic legs in court. This is Oscar Pistorius, South Africa’s golden boy, a man who’s triumphed over adversity, never wanted to be defined by his disability. But at the same time has showed this completely different side to him -- this very vulnerable, insecure, lonely man, and someone who lived his life in fear. Now, that speaks to a lot of the issues that the trial has touched on, in terms of crime, inequality, fear -- all of those different elements. Then we saw that moment where he really fell from grace, and then we saw that physically embodied in court when he stood up on his stumps for the courtroom to see. I think, for me, that wraps up a huge amount of what this trial has been about. It really has been this story of devastation and this legendary fall from grace.

 

Werman: South African journalist Nastasya Tay, thank you very much for your time.

 

Tay: Pleasure, Marco.