Judge rules in favour of prosecutors, state’s bid denied
Johannesburg –– A judge in Pretoria ruled today that South African prosecutors can appeal Oscar Pistorius’ conviction, but denied the state’s bid to challenge his sentence.
The decision means that the decision over Pistorius’ fate isn’t over, with the legal battle possibly extending well into next year.
Prosecutors had said Pistorius’ sentence of five years in prison for fatally shooting his girlfriend was nowhere near enough punishment.
They also want the double-amputee track star to be convicted of a more serious charge. They had originally sought conviction on a charge of murder.
Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide, or negligent killing, in the death of Reeva Steenkamp.
The athlete didn’t attend the hearing, which began yesterday, but his father Henke was present.
“I don’t think we should have gone this far,” he told reporters as he left the courtroom.
But prosecutors welcomed the decision.
“This is what we wanted,” said Nathi Mncube, a spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority. “The issues that we wanted clarified are issues of law and of course the judge agreed with our arguments.”
The victim’s mother, June Steenkamp, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that she hopes the prospective appeal will be “a good thing”.
“I just hope some truth comes out along the way,” she said. “ . . . They seem to forget that somebody actually died, actually, until my niece spoke about her to the judge. And that’s the truth. [Reeva Steenkamp] became invisible.”
In appeal documents filed previously, the prosecution called Pistorius’ sentence “shockingly light” and inappropriate.
Prosecutors argued that Judge Thokozile Masipa misinterpreted a complex South African standard defining a technical form of intent that proved to be a central aspect of the case, according to CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps.
As a result, prosecutors argued, Pistorius should not have been convicted on the culpable homicide charge chosen by the judge.
In explaining her sentence at the trial, Masipa had said that Pistorius did not intend to kill Steenkamp.
But critics of the verdict have argued that Masipa didn’t correctly apply the intent standard, which is broader in South African law than what it typically means in casual conversation, Phelps said.
The case now goes to the Supreme Court of Appeals in Bloemfontein, which will hear the appeal itself.
If that court finds Pistorius guilty of murder, the resulting sentence would be more severe. The minimum sentence for murder in South Africa is 15 years in prison.
It usually takes at least a year for an appeal to be heard, according to Mncube of the National Prosecuting Authority.
Pistorius, 28, made history when he became the first double amputee to compete in the able-bodied Olympics in 2012. He was born without the fibulae in his legs, which were amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old.
Asked what she’d think if Pistorius returned to competition, Reeva Steenkamp’s mother told CNN: “To be honest with you, I don’t care what he does.”
“I’ve got no interest in him whatsoever,” June Steenkamp said. “Nothing is going to change my life unless my daughter . . . could come back by some magic.”