Pistorius walks on stumps to show he's vulnerable

Pistorius removed his prosthetics and stood on his stumps for five minutes in front of the court television camera yesterday.
Pistorius removed his prosthetics and stood on his stumps for five minutes in front of the court television camera yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PRETORIA • Oscar Pistorius yesterday shuffled without his prosthetic legs through a Pretoria court to show how vulnerable he is without his artificial limbs, in an attempt by the athlete's defence team to avoid a long jail sentence for murder.

He will be sentenced on July 6 for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, the South African High Court judge overseeing the case said yesterday, at the end of three days of hearings.

The South African Paralympian gold medallist faces a standard 15-year jail term for the 2013 killing, for which prosecutors say he has shown no remorse.

Pistorius, 29, was originally convicted of culpable homicide - the equivalent of manslaughter - until the appeal court upgraded his crime to murder.

The athlete, who sat with his head in his hands during the third day of sentencing hearings, said he mistook Ms Steenkamp for an intruder when he fired four shots through a locked toilet door in his Pretoria home, killing her almost instantly.

The lower part of his legs was amputated when he was a baby, and he is known as "Blade Runner" for the carbon-fibre prosthetics he wore when racing. His lawyer Barry Roux asked his client to walk in the court on his stumps to show the difficulty he faced while dealing with the threat of an intruder.

His body shaking with emotion, Pistorius then removed his prosthetics and stood on his stumps for five minutes in front of the court television camera, wiping tears from his face with a tissue.

"The accused was vulnerable because of his disability," Mr Roux said, asking for a non-custodial sentence including community service. "His balance is seriously compromised and... he would not be able to defend himself. "

In response, prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked the court to display photos of Ms Steenkamp's bloodied head and torso after the shooting.

"The accused fired not one but four shots to the toilet door. He failed to provide any acceptable version for his conduct," Mr Nel said.

The lawyers' pleas followed tearful testimony on Tuesday from Mr Barry Steenkamp, who said the death of his daughter had plunged him and his wife into an abyss of grief, and contributed to his having had a stroke.

Mr Steenkamp, 73, who is diabetic, said the pain from his daughter's murder had been so severe that he would use his insulin syringe to hurt himself.

He said his wife, June, feels it is right in her heart to forgive.

"But then you must understand why forgiving like that - it still does not exonerate you from the crime that you committed."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2016, with the headline 'Pistorius walks on stumps to show he's vulnerable'. Print Edition | Subscribe