HomeNewsPistorius is ‘broken man’: Psychologist

Pistorius is ‘broken man’: Psychologist

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PRETORIA — Oscar Pistorius is a “broken man” after killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp because he lost her, his reputation, friends, income and sense of self-worth, a psychologist called by the Olympic runner’s lawyers testified yesterday.

Lore Hartzenberg gave the testimony ahead of Pistorius’ sentencing for culpable homicide, and it was almost immediately characterised by the chief prosecutor as unbalanced.

A sentence for culpable homicide can range from a suspended sentence and a fine to as many as 15 years in prison. Judge Thokozile Masipa last month found Pistorius not guilty of both premeditated murder and murder in his killing of Steenkamp in the predawn hours of Valentine’s Day at his home last year.

Several police officers stood guard on the dais where the judge sat amid concerns about her security. Masipa drew criticism from some South Africans who thought Pistorius could at least have been convicted of a lesser murder charge on the grounds that he knew a person could die when he fired four bullets through a toilet door and into a small cubicle, killing Steenkamp.

Prosecutors said Pistorius had opened fire in anger after the couple argued. The runner testified that he mistook Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and budding reality TV star, for an intruder who was about to come out of the toilet and attack him.

Hartzenberg said the double-amputee runner had sometimes cried, retched, perspired and paced up and down during sessions in which she tried to assist him.
“Some of the sessions were just him weeping and crying and me holding him,” Hartzenberg said. She testified she had been counselling a grief-stricken Pistorius since soon after the February 14, 2013 killing of Steenkamp.

The testimony was part of an effort by the runner’s legal team to persuade Masipa that Pistorius has suffered emotionally and materially and that he is remorseful. The team hopes the judge will be lenient when she sentences Pistorius, once a celebrated athlete who ran in the 2012 Olympics, after what is expected to be a week of legal argument and testimony.

“We are left with a broken man who has lost everything,” Hartzenberg said during her testimony.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel criticized her findings, saying Pistorius would likely still have the chance to rebuild his life and possibly continue his career.

Joel Maringa, a social worker in South Africa’s correctional services, suggested that Pistorius be placed under correctional supervision, which would include periods of house arrest, for three years and that he perform 16 hours of community service a month during that time. Such correctional supervision would allow Pistorius to train and attend athletics meetings again, Maringa said.

Defence lawyer Barry Roux said he would likely call four witnesses during the sentencing hearing. Nel said the State would call at least two, with the hearing expected to last a week.

There is no minimum sentence in South Africa for culpable homicide or negligent killing, although some experts say a five-year jail sentence is a guideline when a firearm is used.

Sentencing continues today. -AP

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