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LONDON — Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic runner, removed his artificial legs and shuffled his way to the front of a courtroom in South Africa on Wednesday, the third day of a hearing to determine his sentence for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend.

Trembling and tearful, he rested his right hand on a desk for support as his lawyers pleaded with a judge to sentence him to community service rather than prison.

Dressed in a T-shirt and athletic shorts, Mr. Pistorius, 29, was under five feet tall without the J-shaped carbon-fiber prosthetic legs that earned him the nickname the Blade Runner. It was an image far more humble than that of the world-class athlete who successfully challenged able-bodied athletes.

Mr. Pistorius’s defense lawyers had asked him to take off his prosthetic legs to highlight the sense of vulnerability they say he felt when, acting out of fear and confusion, he fatally shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, early on Feb. 14, 2013. But the tactic appeared to also be meant to generate sympathy from the judge and a lighter sentence than the 15 years Mr. Pistorius faces for murder.

It was the most dramatic moment of the day in a proceeding that both the prosecution and the defense have sought to inject with pathos. A defense psychologist testified on Monday that the athlete was unfit to testify because of a “severe” mental condition that included symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. On Tuesday, the victim’s father, Barry Steenkamp, a diabetic, testified that his grief was so severe that he plunged his insulin syringe into his stomach and arms “to see if I could feel the same type of pain, but no.”

Mr. Pistorius has long maintained that he thought an intruder had entered the home he shared with Ms. Steenkamp in Pretoria, and that he had no intention of killing her when he fired four shots through a locked bathroom door after she had taken cover inside.

It is Mr. Pistorius the double-amputee, and not Mr. Pistorius the world-class athlete, who should be judged, said one of his lawyers, Barry Roux.

South African sentencing guidelines call for a minimum term of 15 years in prison for murder, but they give the judge leeway. Mr. Roux argued that there were “substantial and compelling circumstances” to show leniency. Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa, who is presiding over the televised hearing in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, said on Wednesday that she would issue her ruling on July 6, according to news reports.

In 2014, after a trial that riveted South Africa, Judge Masipa found Mr. Pistorius not guilty of murder but convicted him of culpable homicide, the legal equivalent of manslaughter. She sentenced him to five years in prison, and he served one year before being released in October to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest.

Africa By S.A.B.C. VIA REUTERS 00:47

Pistorius Prosecutor Asks for Long Imprisonment


Pistorius Prosecutor Asks for Long Imprisonment

Gerrie Nel, a state prosecutor in the case against Oscar Pistorius, made the case for a ‘long-term imprisonment’ for Mr. Pistorius during a hearing on Wednesday.
By S.A.B.C. VIA REUTERS on Publish Date June 15, 2016. .

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However, prosecutors appealed, and the country’s top appeals court convicted Mr. Pistorius of murder in December, finding that he was guilty because he knew that firing through the locked door would kill whoever was inside — even if he did not believe that it was Ms. Steenkamp. The court referred the case back to Judge Masipa for sentencing.

Marius du Toit, a South African criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor and judge who is not connected with the case, said in a phone interview that both sides had made fairly naked

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