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Pistorius defense makes final plea ahead of resentencing for murder

During the sentence hearing for the death of Reeva Steenkamp, a Pretoria court has heard two very different depictions of Olympic medalist Oscar Pistorius. Prosecutors say they will seek the minimum sentence, 15 years.

At the request of his lawyer on Wednesday, Oscar Pistorius removed his prosthetic limbs to demonstrate the physical difficulty he faced on the night of February 14, 2013, when he fired four shots through his bathroom door, killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The 29-year-old, who sat with his head in his hands during the third day of sentencing hearings, says he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder.

"I don't want to overplay disability," Roux said ahead of the demonstration, "but the time has come that we must just look [at Pistorius] with different eyes."

The lower part of the athlete's legs were amputated when he was a baby, and he is known as "Blade Runner" for the carbon-fiber prosthetics he wore when racing.

Watch video 02:04

Pistorius appears without his prosthetic legs

"The accused was vulnerable because of his disability," Roux said, asking for a noncustodial sentence that included community service.

Responding to Pistorius' defense, prosecutor Gerrie Nel rejected Roux's claims of "vulnerability," arguing that the Paralympian had developed excellent coping skills.

"We argue that the sentence of 15 years ought to be imposed as a minimum," Nel told the High Court in Pretoria.

Manslaughter conviction overturned

The athlete fired at the door knowing the person behind it could not escape, the prosecutor said, stressing the suffering of defenseless Reeva Steenkamp after she had been wounded.

The second sentencing is the latest chapter in Pistorius' three-year legal saga. The athlete was initially convicted of manslaughter in 2014 and sentenced to five years in prison.

Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius

Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius had been dating for three months at the time of her death

After serving a year in jail, he was released on parole in line with South African procedure and has been living under house arrest at his uncle's mansion since October 2015.

Prosecutors appealed Pistorius' manslaughter verdict, however, insisting that he should have been found guilty of murder. They argued that Pistorius intended to kill, even if he didn't know it was his girlfriend in the bathroom.

Minimum 15-year sentence

As a result, in December last year, a panel of Supreme Court judges overturned Pistorius' manslaughter conviction, raising it to a more serious, murder conviction, for which he must now be sentenced.

The minimum standard sentence for murder in South Africa is 15 years. In exceptional circumstances, however, a judge can reduce that sentence. Pistorius' disability and the fact he is a first-time offender could therefore be taken into consideration. The athlete is due to receive his sentence by the end of the week.

ksb/msh (reuters, AP, dpa)

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