Pastor testifies for Pistorius ahead of murder sentence

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — A pastor and a woman whose son was born without legs testified for Oscar Pistorius’ defense on Tuesday ahead of a new sentencing for the former track star, who was convicted of murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Pastor Marius Nel said he had been in contact with schools that want the double-amputee Olympian to help disadvantaged children with sports training. The pastor also said he had visited Pistorius after he was jailed for an earlier conviction for manslaughter — a conviction that was overturned — and found him to be a “broken” man.

The testimony reflects an argument by defense lawyer Barry Roux that Pistorius should not return go to jail because he can make a valuable contribution to society and would face increasing mental deterioration if he returns to prison.

Another witness, Ebba Gudny Gudmundsdottir of Iceland, testified that Pistorius was kind to her disabled son and gave him a gold medal that he won at a race.

“We still have that medal,” Gudmundsdottir said. “It was a very lovely gesture.”

Pistorius is currently living under house arrest after initially serving one year of a five-year prison sentence for manslaughter for shooting Steenkamp in 2013. But that manslaughter conviction was overturned last year by an appeals court, which convicted Pistorius of the more serious charge of murder.

Judge Thokozile Masipa, who initially acquitted Pistorius of murder, will decide the new sentence. The hearing is scheduled to run through Friday this week.

Pistorius’ lawyers are arguing for leniency. South Africa has a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison for murder, although a judge can reduce that in some circumstances.

Barry and June Steenkamp, the parents of the model Pistorius killed by shooting multiple times through a toilet door in his home in 2013, were present in the courtroom in Pretoria on Tuesday. So were family members of Pistorius, including his uncle, Arnold, and siblings Carl and Aimee.