Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sentence for Oscar Pistorius Challenged by South African Prosecutors
New York Times
JULY 21, 2016

Oscar Pistorius at the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, this month. Credit Shiraaz Mohamed/Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG — South African prosecutors said on Thursday that they would seek a longer prison term for Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee sprinter convicted of murdering his girlfriend, harshly criticizing a six-year sentence handed down two weeks ago as “shockingly too lenient.”

The National Prosecuting Authority said it would seek to appeal the ruling by Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa of the High Court in Pretoria, who cited “mitigating” factors in giving Mr. Pistorius a sentence far shorter than the 15-year minimum sought by prosecutors.

Her ruling also surprised most South African legal experts, who had predicted that Mr. Pistorius would be given at least 10 years in prison.

South African law calls for Judge Masipa to now decide whether to allow prosecutors to appeal her ruling at the Supreme Court of Appeal. If she refuses, prosecutors can then directly petition the appeals court.

In delivering the six-year sentence, Judge Masipa noted that Mr. Pistorius had shown genuine remorse, was a first-time offender and was a good candidate for reform. Clearly pleased with the sentence, Mr. Pistorius’s lawyers said immediately that they would not contest it.

The ruling marked the second time that Judge Masipa had surprised legal experts, as well as the wider public in South Africa, with a judgment regarded by many as overly sympathetic to Mr. Pistorius.

In 2014, she initially found him guilty of manslaughter in the killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, inside his home a year earlier, and she sentenced him to five years in prison.

After prosecutors appealed, the appeals court concluded that Judge Masipa had erred in her ruling and convicted Mr. Pistorius of murder. The appeals court then ordered Judge Masipa to give Mr. Pistorius a new sentence.

Follow Norimitsu Onishi on Twitter @onishinyt.

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