Pistorius ‘has to pay for his crime,’ Reeva Steenkamp’s father says
PRETORIA, South Africa — Reeva Steenkamp’s father delivered a gut-wrenching plea Tuesday for Oscar Pistorius to be punished for murdering his daughter.
Weeping on the witness stand in a sentencing hearing for Pistorius, Barry Steenkamp said he still speaks to his daughter every day and thinks of her “every morning, afternoon and night. I think about her all the time.”
It is the first time Steenkamp has testified during the three-year legal odyssey that started when Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend in February 2013. Steenkamp has suffered a series of strokes after his daughter’s death and has only been present at part of the ongoing legal process.
“I don’t wish that on any human being, finding out what happened. It devastated us,” Steenkamp said. “I ended up having a stroke and so many things since then have happened to me.”
The father told the South African court that his wife, June, had forgiven Pistorius, but that the former Olympic and Paralympic sprinter must still pay the price for his crime.
‘Reeva is with me all the time’
“You have to understand that forgiveness doesn’t exonerate you from what you did,” he said in the Pretoria courtroom.
“He has to pay for his crime. And I don’t want to say that he must go to the maximum whatever it is, but he has to pay for it.”
Murder carries a minimum sentence of 15 years in South Africa, but the defense is arguing that Pistorius is too mentally ill to serve more jail time and should be hospitalized instead.
“You know, people say it takes two, three years and you start feeling a little bit better about the whole thing, but every day of my life is the same. I talk to her and little things that come up. … Reeva is with me all the time, yes,” Barry Steenkamp said.
He gave a dark account of how he tries to inflict pain upon himself to try and understand what his daughter went through.
The diabetic man stabs himself hard in the stomach and arms with his syringe to see if he “could feel the same type of pain.”
He asked the court to show the world the horrific photographs of his daughter’s body after she was killed.
“(What) I would like the world to see is the wounds inflicted into Reeva and the pain she went through.”
The final chapter?
The one-time Paralympic gold medalist is facing a weeklong sentencing hearing for Reeva Steenkamp’s murder. He is expected to learn his fate by Friday.
The hearing may be the final chapter of his widely watched trials that marked a fall from grace for the athlete, nicknamed “Blade Runner,” the first double-amputee to compete in the Olympics. Pistorius shot his girlfriend dead through a bathroom door in their home on Valentine’s Day 2013, but he has maintained that he thought he was shooting at an intruder.
The only witness called Monday was Jonathan Scholtz, a clinical psychologist, who repeatedly described the athlete as “a broken” man.” He explained Pistorius was not able to testify due to anxiety and depression.
Scholtz testified that Pistorius was still on medication for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. The psychologist said he would recommend hospitalization if Pistorius were a regular patient.
Pistorius initially was convicted of culpable homicide, but South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal in December overturned the conviction and handed him the more serious verdict of murder. Pistorius appeared shaken throughout the trial, looking gaunt and dazed and throwing his head into his hands at times.
Here’s what else you need to know:
Hasn’t he been sentenced already?
After a nearly 50-day trial stretched over seven months, Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide (much like manslaughter) in September 2014. Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled the sprinter had acted negligently when he shot Steenkamp four times through a locked bathroom door but that he didn’t do it intentionally. The Supreme Court of Appeal later changed that conviction to murder.
Why was the verdict changed?
The appeals court ruled that the identity of whoever was behind the bathroom door was irrelevant. Pistorius should have foreseen that his action would kill that person, but he went ahead anyway. The key legal principle is known as dolus eventualis.
Is he in prison?
No, Pistorius is at his uncle’s mansion under house arrest. Pistorius spent about a year in a private cell in the hospital wing of a maximum-security prison. He should have gotten out after 10 months, or a sixth of his sentence, but a South African minister intervened. Pistorius could be going straight back to the cell after the sentencing hearing.