Oscar Pistorius Sentencing Hearing Begins

Oscar Pistorius's sentencing hearing began today. It's expected to take three days. The defense says it will call four witnesses. The prosecutor says he will call at least one witness.

The defense will likely focus on Oscar's mental condition, physical disability, contribution to society and professional achievements.

The first witness is Dr Lore Hartzenberg, Oscar's psychologist. She testified Oscar is now a broken man who has lost everything -- his moral and professional reputation and career. She says he is he’s respectful, caring and well-mannered.

South Africa's prisons are notoriously unsanitary and overcrowded. The disabled are at a considerable disadvantage because of a lack of adequate medical services. Inmate on inmate violence is rampant.

Hopefully, the judge will resist public pressure and and impose an alternative sentence. Oscar was acquitted of murder. The judge ruled he did not intend to kill Reeva. He's suffered enough for his negligence. [More...]

The public and the media needs to move on. One article actually quotes a lawyer who says Oscar should get jail because he was "grossly negligent." Of course, the statute makes no reference to "gross negligence" and the judge didn't find him "grossly" negligent.

In addition, South African law requires the judge to base the sentence on the history and characteristics of the offender as a whole, rather than on the crime.

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    Oscar hasn't suffered a thing (5.00 / 5) (#1)
    by Dadler on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 08:14:45 AM EST
    Not a single thing. Frankly, I could con a court psychologist with my eyes closed. In fact, court psychologists are so inept that when I was an abused child, obviously abused, afraid to speak up but all but screaming to be rescued, court appointed shrinks and MDs just said I was shy and wanted attention. Idiots, all of them. And inarguably so. Oscar is a classic sociopath, albeit with a physical disability, who possesses as clear a narcissistic personality disorder as can be evidenced. I don't want people in unsanitary prisons either, but the notion he has suffered anything but pity for himself is ridiculous. Prison is for violent offenders, and he is one. Lock him up for five years minimum. Later, dude.

    Quick question...... (none / 0) (#2)
    by NYShooter on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 08:47:48 AM EST
    How long ago did your ordeal with court appointed psychiatrists take place? And, what part of the country was it?

    I have a little experience in this area and would appreciate hearing your response. Thanks.


    Really? (5.00 / 6) (#3)
    by Reconstructionist on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 09:10:25 AM EST
    "The public and the media needs to move on."

      Exactly what is the test for when the public and the media should cease discussing matters? What person or entity should be entrusted with the power to require people to "move on?" Should the people who don't want to "move on" be required to show they have a good excuse for not "moving on?" If those people fail to show a good excuse for belaboring a matter which the arbiters have deemed over, should they be punished?


    I'd like to see someone with the guts (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Mordiggian 88 on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 10:13:34 AM EST
    to go to the family of the dead woman and tell them now it is time to "move on".

    discussing is fine (none / 0) (#10)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 11:09:07 AM EST
    I should have been clearer. I was referring not to the case, but discussions in which people still claim he was guilty of murder. If I didn't want to discuss the case, I wouldn't have written about it.

    Thanks for the clarification, but (none / 0) (#12)
    by Reconstructionist on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 11:15:59 AM EST
     a further query is appropriate.

      If people should not make claims that a person is  guilty once a trial court has determined he is not guilty ( or guilty of only a lesser offense), then would it not follow that people should not make claims a person is not guilty of an offense if he has been convicted at trial?

      Just perhaps, we may want to rethink the idea that a verdict should serve to quell further attention to a matter.


    No, not at all. (none / 0) (#30)
    by Peter G on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 09:31:42 PM EST
    Double jeopardy is a one-way ratchet, both legally and as a matter of good social policy.

    you are very insightful (none / 0) (#36)
    by Reconstructionist on Tue Oct 14, 2014 at 09:00:28 AM EST
     but I absolutely disagree with that notion.

      Only in terms of legal sanction imposed by the state should the principles underlying double jeopardy be applied.

      If I believe a person was wrongfully convicted or punished too harshly by the State, that will affect how I would view and interact with that person. By the same token, if I believe a person "got away with it" or got the proverbial "slap on the wrist" for an act that deserved more that would also affect my views and interactions.

      The only real difference is that in the former situation further court proceedings to rectify directly (albeit imperfectly) the injustice should be available while in the latter they should not.

     Just because the defendant is justly free from further state action  in a case where I believe the injustice was favorable to the defendant rather than adverse does not mean it would be good policy to just say oh, well the court has spoken, that's the end of my interest.

       I firmly believe "good social policy" demands attention be directed to  a failure of justice regardless of which side prevailed. Good social policy would be to examine the matter attempting to determine how and why the injustice occurred and whether individual actors, systemic causes or a combination led to the unjust result.

      That exercise could identify potential  actions to reduce the possibility of similar injustices in the future. That could include, but not be limited to: opposing a judge who I believe bears responsibility for the injustice; seeking to improve the quality of law enforcement and prosecutor; seeking changes in the law, and so forth.


    When people are encouraged not to accept (none / 0) (#37)
    by Peter G on Tue Oct 14, 2014 at 12:25:43 PM EST
    unpopular court decisions (such as the acquittal of someone the press, police or a prosecutor's office has described as guilty), the rule of law and judicial independence are undermined.  It may also encourage vigilantism. In our system, which so heavily favors the prosecution in resources and popular support, the chances that a decision favorable to a criminal defendant results from inadequacies on the prosecution side, or from poor performance by a judge, are greatly outweighed by the detrimental consequences I mentioned.

      an "unpopular" court ruling which is contrary to a majority's political or social beliefs and a decision that people believe is factually wrong or resulted in appropriate punishment for a conviction grounded in a law that practically all agree proscribes conduct that should be criminal.

      Even with that said, I believe that while people should obey unpopular decisions and follow the law established in an unpopular decision, I would never suggest anyone should refrain from criticizing the law or advocating for its change through legal or political channels.

      We're going to have to disagree on this one.


    We certainly do not disagree that (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by Peter G on Tue Oct 14, 2014 at 09:07:38 PM EST
    no one "should refrain from criticizing the law or advocating for its change through legal or political channels." I suggested no such thing.

    Then I am not sure what you originally meant. (none / 0) (#40)
    by Reconstructionist on Wed Oct 15, 2014 at 10:15:09 AM EST
    You wrote:

    Double jeopardy is a one-way ratchet, both legally and as a matter of good social policy.

    When people are encouraged not to accept
    unpopular court decisions (such as the acquittal of someone the press, police or a prosecutor's office has described as guilty), the rule of law and judicial independence are undermined.  It may also encourage vigilantism. In our system, which so heavily favors the prosecution in resources and popular support, the chances that a decision favorable to a criminal defendant results from inadequacies on the prosecution side, or from poor performance by a judge, are greatly outweighed by the detrimental consequences I mentioned."

       I construed that to mean you do not believe people, as a matter of good social policy, should make claims that a result favorable to a defendant was unjust and that arguments that an unjust result was caused by from poor performance by the prosecutor or judge should be stifled to promote the greater good.

      In context, where I was stating my belief I see nothing wrong with people asserting that a person who was acquitted (or found guilty of a lesser charge) and that it is directly analogous to people asserting a person was wrongfully convicted due to deficiencies in the proceeding, I think my interpretation is reasonable.

      I also would add your concerns that "the rule of law" and "judicial independence" are undermined by dissent based on beliefs case were wrongly decided would not appear to me to be contingent on whose ox was gored.


    You don't want people to argue about (none / 0) (#17)
    by Mordiggian 88 on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 11:58:56 AM EST
    the not guilty verdict, not keep rehashing the case for his being guilty of murder.  

    That's fair enough, I have my own opinion about that but it is a reasonable request to ask.  It's not like this is the only place on the Intertubes to discuss the case.  😀


    I have no idea (5.00 / 5) (#7)
    by NYShooter on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 10:23:17 AM EST
    what a proper punishment would be for the crimes Pistorius committed. A lot, of course, will be up to the judge, and her interpretation of Oscar's culpability in this killing.

    Having said that, I have had it up to Here! with the dual set of laws & punishments for the haves and the have nots of the world. And, I'm not alone.

    I believe the defining moment of Obama's presidency, and, the thing that deflated his balloon, tarnishing his legacy for all time was when he announced to the world that the perpetrators of our economic debacle would be untouched, that he (like his predecessor) would continue being a President for the 1%, and, that his campaign promise of "Change" was a lie.

    Jamie Dimon's scolding by editorial boards was not "punishment enough," and, Pistorius's tarnishment of his reputation isn't either.

    Basing the sentence on the person as a (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 10:44:58 AM EST
    Whole might a problem given Oscar's past reported gun episodes I would think.

    he was found not guilty of two of the three (none / 0) (#13)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 11:16:33 AM EST
    gun-related charges. So there is only one gun episode to consider. (One was not a gun charge but a charge of possessing ammunition without a license and he was acquitted since the ammunition belonged to his father who had left it at his house and the state failed to prove otherwise.)

    Still appears to have a gun problem (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 11:22:25 AM EST
    Appears? (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by CoralGables on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 04:32:37 PM EST
    He has a gun problem.

    His father (none / 0) (#26)
    by Natal on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 03:44:48 PM EST
    refused to say whether or not the ammunition belonged to him according to the prosecutor.

    question re punishment (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by womanwarrior on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 09:37:29 PM EST
    So, where does the notion that prison is the only punishment that is appropriate come from?  Prison for someone with cancer where she won't get treatment? Prison for someone with diabetes who has lost his feet and can't get to pill line, because the prison won't assign someone to wheel him there so he dies?  You really think prison is great because the weak get raped there?  Where does this notion that prison is the best answer to punishment? And is punishment the only thing we care about?  What about getting the person to change?  What at paying back through community service?  Why is our attitude so different from the Europeans, I wonder.

    Prison (none / 0) (#33)
    by jbindc on Tue Oct 14, 2014 at 08:14:27 AM EST
    isn't the only form of punishment.  But it depends on the crime.

    And in most, if not all, European countries, someone found guilty of culpable homicide (or manslaughter) would be facing prison time, so I'm not sure what your question is.


    He took a life (none / 0) (#4)
    by IndiDemGirl on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 09:33:52 AM EST
    Ok, it wasn't intentional, but it wasn't an accident either.  He acted recklessly and foolishly.  Because of his actions a life ended.  He should be a broken man.  Those are the consequences of his actions.

    that exactly right (none / 0) (#5)
    by nyjets on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 09:52:42 AM EST
    He should be made to serve some jail time.

    punishment need not be prison (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 11:13:48 AM EST
    and if he's a broken man, that is punishment. Regardless, the crime is not the sole determinant, his individualized circumstances must also be taken into account.

    A social worker who testified today ... (none / 0) (#28)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 06:59:30 PM EST
    ... offered the opinion that Oscar Pistorius should be sentenced to at least three years of house arrest. Given his physical handicaps and apparent psycho-emotional challenges, I'd say that would certainly be a reasonable consideration. The punishment should fit the crime for which he was convicted, which is culpable homicide, but it should not be punitive or vindictive.



    Punishment should not be punitive? (5.00 / 2) (#34)
    by Reconstructionist on Tue Oct 14, 2014 at 08:39:52 AM EST
      I do believe the root of both words is the same; pretty much by definition, it's not punishment unless it is punitive.

      If you meant more along the lines of "sentences should not be punitive," then you inadvertently undermine basically  the entire concept of criminal justice.

       What possible moral justification would a court have to impose any sanction beyond dollar for dollar restitution  on a person and deprive him of any degree of liberty or property except to punish a person for a criminal wrong?


    The suggested sentence certainly (none / 0) (#35)
    by Mordiggian 88 on Tue Oct 14, 2014 at 08:50:12 AM EST
    doesn't sound very punative:

    Maringa(the social worker-ed) admitted he didn't know Pistorius had used Black Talon ammunition, nor that four bullets were fired, but said he read "somewhere that he didn't mean to shoot the deceased."

    Nel seized on the moment, saying "No, you are wrong. That is not what the judgment says. Did you even read the judgment?"

    Maringa suggested that an appropriate punishment for Pistorius would be 16 hours of community service -- performed at the Transvaal Museum or Little Company of Mary hospital in Pretoria -- where Pistorius would be doing "cleaning duties."

    He further said Pistorius should be placed under house arrest at his uncle's house -- a 24-room mansion in the upper class suburb of Waterkloof, home to many embassies and diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador -- and that he should be allowed to continue with his career as an athlete.

    His physical handicap, btw, didn't keep him from being able to kill another human being.  It's not like he is permanently confined to a wheelchair or anything else.  And being confined to a mansion?  A SRO would more appropriate.

    I certainly wouldn't be comfortable if in this country, a celebrity, or anyone else, for that matter, was sentenced to mopping the floors and house arrest in a mansion after a similar finding in an  American court of whatever is the equivalent of 'culpable homicide' here.

    As for all the crying he did in court, it just tells me that some of folks here are easily gulled by a lousy acting job that would be more appropriate to the stage of a middle school auditorium than real repentance in a court of law.



    Bthe he/she's aleady been punished enough argument (none / 0) (#9)
    by oculus on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 10:45:12 AM EST
    criminal defense counsel. Your honor, (insert first name of defendant), lost his job, family, home, etcetcetc. He has already been punished.

    you forgot to include (none / 0) (#14)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 11:20:45 AM EST
    the emotional toll this trial and the world wide publicity had on him, the humiliation of having every detail of his life and disability exposed in public -- even having his bodily functions (repeated vomiting into a bucket) televised.

    The only missing element is the (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by oculus on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 11:26:03 AM EST
    a baby for the court to also consider.

    And the elderly parents who would be devastated (none / 0) (#18)
    by Mordiggian 88 on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 12:00:50 PM EST
    if he were to serve any significant jail time.

    Here's the problem, Jeralyn: (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Anne on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 12:32:31 PM EST
    for some people, there just is no place for sympathy for someone who commits a terrible act and then suffers personal and public consequences for it.  And, for these same people, the only punishment that counts is the one imposed by the state - the personal and public humiliations and consequences up to that point are never enough.

    And you can be sure that, for far too many people, if he does serve any time, once service has been completed, he will still never be released from the purgatory of having taken someone's life, no matter what good he does or how he works to be a better person.


    those who want to sympathize (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Reconstructionist on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 01:08:59 PM EST
    are free to do so even though others feel that is wrong and a somewhat bizarre form of celebrity cultism. Why should those who choose not to sympathize feel guilty about it?

      A fair argument can be made that there is little injustice in a person facing extrajudicial consequences for wrongfully taking a life unless those extrajudicial consequences include vigilante justice. Losing status and wealth and becoming a social pariah among many is a loss, but is it an unfair consequence?

      You almost sound as if he is entitled to more sympathy because he is well known and more people are aware of his misdeed than someone whose case draws little publicity and is thus subject to scorn from fewer people.

       Even if he does work to become a better person he will be merely a better person  who killed someone wrongfully.



    Not sure (none / 0) (#23)
    by jbindc on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 01:24:03 PM EST
    What "personal and public" humiliations have to do with sentencing.  The only time "personal and public humiliation" should be taken into account (and compensated) are when someone is falsely accused and has their life turned upside down.

    In this case, OP was found guilty of causing the death of Reeva Steenkamp, and it was not in self-denfense. The fact that he has been "personally and publicly humiliated" shouldn't really matter at this point.

    On the other hand, we could feel sorry for people who do their time and get out and then they end up like this guy.


    I don't think Anne said that at all. (none / 0) (#29)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 07:07:54 PM EST
    Rather, she rightly noted that given Oscar Pistorius' celebrity and now notoriety, there are going to be some people out there who will never be satisfied with his punishment. Even if he was sentenced to drawing and quartering, they'd no doubt complain that the judge was too lenient because she didn't include a burning at the stake.

    "For some people" it jars to (5.00 / 4) (#22)
    by oculus on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 01:09:06 PM EST
    see portrayed as a "victim" a person convicted of a crime involving the death of another human being.

    I don't generally have much sympathy (5.00 / 2) (#24)
    by Anne on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 01:54:37 PM EST
    for those whose lives fall apart after they do something that takes someone else's life or causes someone great harm - I mean, it's a little like the old saw about the kid who kills his parents and them pleads for mercy because he's an orphan.  

    That being said, I can still recognize that whatever that person suffers as a result of his or her actions is, actually, punishment, isn't it?  If you lose your family, your job, your home - for example - if you can't go anywhere in public without people screaming at you, that's punishment.  But the person on the receiving end is not a victim.  Do I think that means someone shouldn't also serve a prison sentence?  No.  In most cases, I don't think one negates the need for the other.  I guess the question is whether pre-sentence "punishment" should be a factor in sentencing.  Should it be less of a factor than who the person was before the conviction, or what the psychologists or family members or the victim's family have to say?  I don't know - but I don't think it should be ignored completely.

    Whether someone is being punished by the society in which he or she is living, or punished by being banished to a prison cell, both things are happening as a result of that person's actions. So why not take societal punishment into account?

    I think the reluctance has to do with the freedom associated with one versus the confinement of the other.  

    I'm not sure how it really even matters whether people like you or me "forgive" someone like Pistorius - he's a stranger to me as I am to him, so what does he care if a bunch of people on a blog think he should never have the chance to change or better his life?  


    Yeah, I'm a little confused (5.00 / 4) (#25)
    by NYShooter on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 02:49:22 PM EST
    about what the commenters here are trying to say.

    I think most people would feel similarly about a person who's life "fell apart" after committing a particular crime. The fall from grace for a guy like Oscar  Pistorius is much steeper, and, more dramatic than, let's say, for "Luigi," an unemployed, drunken bum. And, it would be totally understandable for one to sympathize a little bit more for the guy whose life is, relatively, more destroyed.

    But, I'm getting the feeling that some here want to extend that feeling of sympathy to affecting what the punishment should be.

    In other words, should Oscar's punishment be less than "Luigi's" simply because Oscar's humiliation and blown up status is greater than Luigi's?

    I think most people would say, "no."


    there is a reson for that (none / 0) (#20)
    by nyjets on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 01:04:09 PM EST
    When a person commits a 'terrible act' like killing someone, that person can never make restitution for what he or she did. (Unless there is a valid reason for the act, ex self-defense) The act is immutable and no amount of 'good' a person does can change that fact.

    If he doesnt go to jail (none / 0) (#32)
    by Jack203 on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 09:40:00 PM EST
    The optics will not be good.

    Rich white guy and all.