South African judge Thokozile Masipa has wide latitude in deciding the sentence after several days of legal arguments and testimony that begin Monday.
Last month she convicted the double-amputee runner of culpable homicide, or negligent killing. Sentences for such a crime can range from a suspended sentence and a fine to as many as 15 years in prison.
South African lawyers vary widely in predictions about what kind of sentence Pistorius will get
Some say he is unlikely to go to jail because defence lawyers will successfully argue that the athlete is a first-time offender with a disability that would subject him to particular hardship in prison, while others anticipate that Pistorius will be sentenced to some prison time because of the severity of his crime.
“I think that the probabilities are that the judge will send him to prison for a certain period, but not a very long one,” said George Bizos, a human rights lawyer. He did not specify the length of a possible jail term.
Aggravating and mitigating factors
There are “clear aggravating and mitigating factors” that could influence the judge’s decision-making but that it was difficult to accurately predict the penalty because the “sentencing law is so individually applied,” said Kelly Phelps, a senior lecturer in the public law department at the University of Cape Town.
There are, however, past culpable homicide sentences in South Africa that provide some context for the Pistorius case.
Jub Jubâ??s conviction overturned
They include a singer known as Jub Jub whose murder conviction was overturned and replaced with a culpable homicide conviction this month, dropping his prison sentence from 25 to eight years. He was arrested after a 2010 drag race in which he and another man ploughed cars into a group of schoolchildren, killing four and seriously injuring two.
In a separate case, a taxi driver’s murder conviction was also reduced to culpable homicide last year, cutting his prison time to eight years instead of 20. The driver’s car had hit a train, and 10 children died in the accident.
by Christopher Torchia