Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic runner who faces sentencing for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend, removed his artificial legs and shuffled his way to the front of a courtroom in Pretoria, South Africa, on Wednesday.
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, is barely three and a half feet tall without the J-shaped carbon-fiber prosthetic legs that earned him the name the Blade Runner, an image far more humble than that of the world-class athlete who successfully challenged able-bodied athletes.
It was the most dramatic moment in the third day of a sentencing hearing before Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa of the North Gauteng High Court. The judge said on Wednesday that she would issue her ruling on July 6, news reports said.
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.
Mr. Pistorius has long maintained that he thought an intruder had entered their home in Pretoria, and that he had no intention of killing Ms. Steenkamp when he fired four shots through a locked bathroom door.
It was 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.
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, of which he served one year before being released in October to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest.
However, prosecutors appealed, and the country’s top appeals court convicted Mr. Pistorius of murder in December, finding that Mr. Pistorius was guilty because he knew that firing through the locked door would kill whoever was inside — even if he did not believe it was Ms. Steenkamp. The court referred the case back to Judge Masipa for sentencing.
The chief prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, has portrayed Mr. Pistorius as a man given to fits of anger and self-pity. On Wednesday, he summoned Kim Martin, a cousin of Ms. Steenkamp’s, to testify about what the prosecution says is a lack of remorse.
“Besides the obvious anxiety and depression, as a family we’ll never ever be able to carry on like normal,” she said. “Just standing on a queue at a shopping center poses difficulty. People don’t recognize you, and they’ll start mentioning the trial, or they’ll start mentioning Oscar, or they’ll start mentioning Reeva.”
Ms. Steenkamp, a law school graduate and model, was 29 when she died.
“All we’ve ever wanted was the truth,” Ms. Martin said. “I know people said that you’ve got the truth. But we didn’t. Oscar’s version changed so many times, and I’ve never, ever heard him say that ‘I apologize for shooting and murdering Reeva behind that door.’ ”
The family has expressed outrage that Mr. Pistorius taped an interview — his first about the killing — to the British television network ITV but declined to testify at the sentencing hearing. The interview has been scheduled for broadcast on June 24. Observers had expected the sentence to be handed down before that date.
Mr. Pistorius’s disability made him “get anxious very easily, especially when faced with danger,” Mr. Roux argued. “It is also understandable that a person with disabilities, such as that of the accused, would certainly feel vulnerable when faced with danger.”
Mr. Roux suggested that his client was also a victim, with his career and life ruined.
“The accused has lost all of his assets and his career is gone,” Mr. Roux said. “The accused can never, ever resume his career. The accused has punished himself, and will punish himself for the rest of his life, far more than any court of law can punish him.”
Mr. Nel, the prosecutor, was unmoved. He said that Mr. Pistorius had not shown remorse and that his decision to give the ITV interview without informing the court showed “utter disrespect.”
“It’s the duty of this court not to follow public opinion but to lead public opinion in the public interest,” he said, urging Judge Masipa to hand down at least a 15-year term