Pistorius Removes Prosthetics in Court to Show 'Vulnerability'
Defense had him walk on stumps to try to get out of long prison sentence
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2016 11:21 AM CDT
Oscar Pistorius walks on his stumps during his sentencing hearing in Pretoria, South Africa, on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Alon Skuy, Pool via AP)

(Newser) – Oscar Pistorius tried in vain in March to appeal his conviction before South Africa's highest court in the 2013 murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, and so he made a last-ditch effort Wednesday to avoid a lengthy prison sentence: He took off his artificial legs, Reuters reports. Pistorius lawyer Barry Roux paraded his client in front of the Pretoria court so his "enemies" could see how much trouble he would have had in confronting an intruder, per the Wall Street Journal—Pistorius claimed he shot Steenkamp in error through a locked bathroom door, thinking the person on the other side had broken into his home—and how fearful and vulnerable he would've been due to his disability. Reuters describes Pistorius' body as "shaking with emotion" as he took off his prosthetics and stood in front of the court; CNN says he fell to his knees crying after a few minutes.

The dramatic scene of the "trembling" 29-year-old, as the New York Times puts it, who stands 3 ½ feet tall without his artificial legs, was a defense strategy to avoid a 15-year minimum prison sentence, which the judge has some leeway with based on time served and other "mitigating factors," per the BBC. Pistorius has already served one year under the original culpable homicide conviction—that was overturned by an appeals court, which convicted him of murder in December—and has been serving the rest of that five-year sentence under house arrest. But Steenkamp's family isn't buying his vulnerability gambit, saying he still hasn't apologized to them and that they're furious he wouldn't testify at the hearing but saw fit to tape an interview about the killing for the ITV network that will air June 24. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel responded to Pistorius' ploy by requesting the public release of pictures of a bloodied Steenkamp, which the judge granted. Sentencing is July 6.
 

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