SOMERSET WEST, South Africa – The Oscar Pistorius case was back in court Friday, with prosecutors seeking a longer prison sentence for the double-amputee athlete after he was found guilty of murder for shooting his girlfriend.
Prosecutors are asking South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal to give them permission to challenge Pistorius’ six-year sentence, calling it “shockingly” lenient.
The prosecution wants Pistorius to be sentenced to at least 15 years for killing Reeva Steenkamp, the prescribed minimum sentence for murders that are not premeditated. There is no death penalty in South Africa.
Pistorius, 30, did not attend the hearing as he serves his sentence in a prison near the capital, Pretoria. He has served just over a year. Steenkamp’s mother, June Steenkamp, was at the courthouse. Steenkamp’s lawyer, Tania Koen, said the family supported the prosecution’s appeal.
This is the second time prosecutors have gone to the Supreme Court in the central city of Bloemfontein to challenge a decision by trial judge Thokozile Masipa.
In 2015, they successfully appealed against her judgment that Pistorius was not guilty of murder. The court overturned Masipa’s verdict of culpable homicide – or manslaughter – and convicted Pistorius of murder.
Masipa then sentenced Pistorius to six years in prison for murder, a term just one year longer than her original sentence for manslaughter.
Judges can deviate from prescribed minimum sentences if there are compelling circumstances. The prosecution says there were no compelling reasons for Masipa to give Pistorius a lighter sentence.
“What we are saying is the court exercised its discretion inappropriately,” prosecutor Andrea Johnson said in Friday’s hearing in front of a panel of five judges. Johnson called the six-year sentence “unjust.”
Johnson also said Pistorius had not shown “genuine remorse” for shooting Steenkamp multiple times through a closed toilet door in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day 2013. Pistorius claimed he thought Steenkamp was a dangerous intruder.
Prosecutors were asking the Supreme Court for permission to appeal against Pistorius’ sentence after Masipa denied them permission.