Pistorius sentencing: Two interpretations of justice

South African athlete Oscar Pistorius rests his head during his sentencing hearing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, 17 October 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Defence lawyer Barry Roux said Oscar Pistorius was now financially ruined

Judge Thokozile Masipa must choose between two starkly different interpretations of justice, and of Oscar Pistorius himself, as she spends this weekend pondering what sentence to give the man she's already cleared of murder but found guilty of culpable homicide.

The athlete's lawyer, Barry Roux, used his final arguments on Friday to appeal to the judge's sense of humanity in urging her to reject a prison sentencefor a man he said was - beyond all doubt - genuinely remorseful, and desperate to make amends for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Mr Roux said a prison sentence would smack of "retribution" for a disabled man whose love for Ms Steenkamp was proven, and who was now financially ruined - to the point of being unable to meet his legal expenses - and destined to live for the rest of his life with the "excruciating pain" of knowing he'd killed her.

Mr Roux said Oscar Pistorius's own version of events - promptly offered to the authorities - had been vindicated by Judge Masipa's verdict. He bitterly attacked the prosecution for offering "false evidence" at the bail hearing and of insisting on a premeditated murder charge ultimately rejected by the judge.

And Mr Roux went further, complaining about the denigration, ridicule and humiliation which he said Pistorius had been exposed to by false claims - for instance that he'd "crushed her skull with a bat" - reported by various news media and social media.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Judge Masipa said she would return next Tuesday to announce her decision

Judge Masipa made a rare intervention on this point, insisting that any media coverage would have no impact on her decision regarding an appropriate sentence. But she gave nothing else away as the prosecution urged her to jail Pistorius for a decade.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel was scornful of the athlete's appeals for leniency, saying his expressions of remorse were not genuine, and that he was "shamefully" exploiting his disability to try to avoid a prison sentence.

'Not the Colosseum'

Mr Nel - still quietly seething about the earlier verdict - insisted that Pistorius's crime came so close to that of murder that only a minimum 10-year prison sentence would satisfy South African society.

Warming to that theme, Mr Nel suggested that the public might "take the law into their own hands" if the judge showed any greater leniency.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Reeva Steenkamp's cousin Kim Martin (right) says Pistorius must pay for his crime

It seemed a provocative line of argument - to hint at a lynch mob forming outside the court if the judge did not back him - and Pistorius's lawyers and family quickly voiced their outrage with one saying "this isn't the Colosseum."

This sentencing hearing had always been due to conclude on Friday, but - not for the first time - some lengthy cross-examinations pushed that schedule off course and Judge Masipa said she would return next Tuesday to announce her decision.

The interests (rather than the opinion) of society, the demands of justice, rehabilitation, punishment, fairness, and the personal circumstances of both Oscar Pistorius and the Steenkamps will all, presumably, inform Judge Masipa's ruling.

Then we'll wait to see if either side seeks leave to appeal against the verdict or sentence.

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