Former Paralympian Oscar Pistorius was sentenced to six years of imprisonment for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The verdict was announced Wednesday at a South African court in Pretoria.
Pistorius faced a possible 15-year jail sentence for Steenkamp’s murder. However, high court judge Thokozile Masipa said considerable and convincing circumstances existed in Pistorius’ case to give him a lesser sentence, referring to him as a “fallen hero.”
“Public opinion may be loud and persistent, but it can play no role in the decision of this court,” Masipa said in her ruling.
The judge said the prosecution and defense can appeal the sentence. However, Pistorius’ defense team reportedly said they will not appeal the sentence, and the athlete was expected to be moved to prison.
Following the verdict, Pistorius’ brother posted a tweet.
Steenkamp’s parents, Barry and June, were present in the courtroom. Doup De Bruyn, a lawyer who represented the family, said: “There is nothing [the family] can do about the sentence. Nothing will bring Reeva back. The best thing to do is to maintain a dignified silence.”
Pistorius stood trial after Steenkamp’s death in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013, at his Pretoria home. The 29-year-old, also known as “blade runner” for running on prosthetic legs, had consistently said throughout the trial that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder and fired at her through a bathroom door in self-defense. However, prosecutors argued that Pistorius shot Steenkamp during an argument.
In March, the Constitutional Court of South Africa — the country’s apex court — denied Pistorius’ right to appeal against his conviction for the murder. Under South African law, a murder convict is given a minimum 15-year prison term. However, the punishment can be reduced under exceptional circumstances.
Pistorius, who was sentenced to five years in prison under a previous ruling, was placed under house arrest last October after spending a year in jail. Last December, the Supreme Court of Appeal judges called his testimony “unacceptable,” “vacillating” and “contradictory,” and added that if the double-amputee Olympian feared for his life, he should have acted more rationally. Instead, Pistorius did not fire a warning shot and shot his girlfriend four times, the judges said.
The year Pistorius has already spent in jail will not be taken off the six-year term he must serve now.