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Pistorius prosecutors lose appeal for harsher sentence

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Oscar Pistorius

JOHANNESBURG  — A South African judge on Friday rejected a request by prosecutors seeking to appeal Oscar Pistorius’ six-year sentence for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued that Pistorius’ sentence for the crime was “shockingly lenient” and that the state should be granted the opportunity to appeal for a stiffer sentence. Meanwhile, defense lawyer Barry Roux argued that the legal process had been thoroughly exhausted and the prosecution’s leave to appeal should be dismissed.

Judge Thokozile Masipa rejected the request in Johannesburg.

Pistorius, a former Olympic and Paralympic sprinter, killed Reeva Steenkamp at his home in an upscale Pretoria neighborhood in the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 2013 — an act he says was an accident, after he mistook her for an intruder. The prosecution called it a deliberate act after the two had an argument.

A dragged-out legal drama

Pistorius originally was convicted of manslaughter in 2014 after months of hearings, but a higher court changed that to murder last year, leading to the latest sentencing.

Masipa surprised many when she sentenced Pistorius to six years earlier this year. The minimum sentence for murder in South Africa is 15 years, but individual judges are given leeway if there are “substantial and compelling” reasons to do so.

Masipa cited mitigating circumstances for the lesser punishment, saying Pistorius is genuinely remorseful and a good candidate for rehabilitation. She had described him as a “fallen hero” who will never be at peace.

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