PRETORIA (Reuters) – Oscar Pistorius has shown no remorse for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a prosecutor told a court on Monday, while a psychologist described him as “a broken man” who should not be jailed.
The 29-year-old Paralympic gold medallist, known as “Blade Runner” for the carbon-fibre prosthetics he used to wear when racing, faces a minimum 15-year jail term after his original manslaughter conviction for the 2013 killing was upgraded.
The case has prompted a fierce debate in a country beset by high levels of violent crime. Some rights groups have said the white athlete has received preferential treatment.
Professor Jonathan Scholtz, a psychologist called by Pistorius’ lawyer Barry Roux, told the sentencing hearing the athlete — who attended in a dark suit and at times sat with his head in his hands — was on medication for depression, anxiety and insomnia.
“One would describe him as broken. In my opinion his current condition warrants hospitalisation,” Scholtz said.
“Since 2013, he becomes traumatised when he hears the sound of gunfire,” Scholtz said. “He never wants to touch a firearm again.”
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel questioned Scholtz’s assertion that Pistorius was not fit to testify, saying the athlete had given a TV interview. The hour-long interview with Britain’s ITV is due to air this month, local media have reported.
Nel told the court Pistorius shown no remorse for the murder, and that he only “feels sorry for himself”.
Pistorius had temper tantrums and, while serving his sentence, once banged a table when he got upset with a nurse, Nel said.
Luvuyo Mfaku, a spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, told Reuters its position was “to argue for the prescribed sentence to be imposed, that is 15 years.”
Scholtz said Pistorius was once assaulted while in jail, but Nel rejected this, saying the complaint register in which Pistorius often raised issues had no report of such an incident.
Nel also disputed a claim by the psychologist that Pistorius was traumatised after he saw a prisoner who had hanged himself, saying it was unlikely that he could have seen the victim.
Pistorius initially received a five-year sentence for culpable homicide, South Africa’s equivalent of manslaughter, for shooting Steenkamp through a locked toilet door in his Pretoria home. He had argued he mistook her for an intruder.
The conviction was later upgraded to murder after an appeal heard by the Supreme Court, which ruled in March he had exhausted all his legal options and could no longer appeal.
Original trial judge Thokozile Masipa started hearing the pre-sentencing arguments at Pretoria High Court on Monday.
State prosecutors who lodged the appeal say Pistorius intended to kill Steenkamp and that the law graduate and model had fled to the toilet during an argument. A final ruling on his sentence is expected by the end of this week.
Scholtz told the hearing, which was attended by Steenkamp’s mother, that Pistorius had suffered financially and found asking others for assistance humiliating.
Pistorius lost millions of dollars in endorsements and sponsorships after reaching the pinnacle of his fame in London 2012 when he became the first double amputee to run in the Olympics, reaching the 400 metres semi-finals.
Pistorius had enrolled in a correspondence course for a degree at the London School of Economics and had been offered a job with a charity working with children in Africa, Scholtz added.
Outside the court, a group held up placards backing the athlete, one of them with the message: “Worldwide supporters of Oscar Pistorius”.
Members of the Women’s League of the ruling African National Congress party, who have attended the trial in support of the murdered Steenkamp clad in their green and black uniform, said Pistorius should face the prescribed sentence.
“I don’t think he has remorse,” spokeswoman Jacqueline Mofokeng said outside the court. “We are calling for the fifteen years without parole.”
(Writing by James Macharia; editing by Andrew Heavens and John Stonestreet)