PRETORIA, South Africa --Oscar Pistorius is "a broken man who has lost everything," a defense psychologist testified Monday as the double-amputee Olympian awaited sentencing for killing his girlfriend. The sprinter could receive anything from a suspended sentence and a fine or as many as 15 years in prison after being convicted last month of culpable homicide, or negligent killing. The sentencing hearing, in front of judge Thokozile Masipa, is expected to take up to one week.
Psychologist Dr. Lore Hartzenberg said Pistorius suffered from flashbacks because of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the shooting. His fall “from being an icon in world athletics and who was revered and celebrated to being vilified and humiliated” left him without “any inclination or intent to continue with any type of career,” she said, adding that Pistorius mentioned wanting to teach at his uncle’s school in rural Mozambique because “nothing would make him happier.”
However, prosecutor Gerrie Nel tore into her testimony, aggressively asking “irresponsible” Hartzenberg why she had not read last month’s court judgment in full. He also asked her about Pistorius' visits to a nightclub following Reeva Steenkamp’s killing, which Hartzenberg said were an attempt to "escape" from his PTSD.
Nel also criticized the suggestion by state social worker, Joel Maringa, that the athlete should be given correctional supervision instead of a jail sentence. "Correctional supervision would allow him to go train...would allow him to take part in athletic meetings...if he's not training he must go home?" Nel asked Maringa. "But that's what a proficient athlete would do, isn't it?" After Maringa told Nel he was correct, the prosecutor said: "So that would be no sentence?"
Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law graduate, died in the hail of bullets. Prosecutors alleged Pistorius had opened fire in anger after the couple argued. The runner testified that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder who was about to come out of the toilet and attack him.
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 defense 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.
- Cheryll Simpson and Alastair Jamieson
The Associated Press contributed to this report.