S. African court rules appeal against Pistorius can go ahead
A South Africa court dismissed Friday an attempt by Oscar Pistorius's lawyers to stop an appeal that could see the fallen Paralympian hero spend significantly more time behind bars for killing his model girlfriend.
Pistorius’s defence had sought to block prosecutors from appealing the double-amputee athlete’s culpable homicide conviction in order to seek a murder verdict that carries more time in prison.
But Judge Thokozile Masipa, who presided over Pistorius’s trial, criticised the athlete’s lawyers and rejected their application.
The 28-year-old Paralympian was last year found guilty of culpable homicide — a charge akin to manslaughter — and sentenced to five years in prison for shooting Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013.
State prosecutors were granted permission in December to appeal against the verdict, arguing that Masipa misinterpreted the law when she ruled Pistorius did not intentionally kill Steenkamp when he shot four times through a locked toilet door.
Pistorius’s legal team countered that his conviction was based on facts presented during the trial and therefore could not be appealed.
Masipa on Friday said Pistorius’s lawyers should argue their point in the appeals court itself, adding there was “nothing new” in their application.
“Before I gave my finding in December, both counsel had an opportunity to argue whether the points raised at the time were points of fact or points of law,” Masipa told the court.
“Procedurally it would be wrong to grant or refuse this application… I strike off the application.”
– State appeal –
Masipa’s decision paves the way for the prosecution’s appeal to go ahead.
“The court today has confirmed, or agreed with the NPA, that this matter should not be entertained,” National Prosecution Authority spokesman Velekhaya Mgobhozi said after the hearing.
“We will be going to the Supreme Court (of Appeal).”
Pistorius’s lawyer Barry Roux shook his head when the decision was announced.
During the trial, Pistorius testified that he shot Steenkamp believing she was an intruder who had broken into his house in a gated Pretoria community.
The state argued he deliberately killed the 29-year-old law graduate and reality television star after an argument.
If an appeals court finds him guilty of murder, the athlete — known as the “Blade Runner” for his prosthetic legs he wears on the track — could face at least 15 years in jail.
Pistorius has been serving his sentence in a central Pretoria prison since October.
Due to his physical disability, he is being held in the hospital ward of the prison, shielding him from the often brutal overcrowded cells, known for gang violence.
Pistorius was jailed after a sensational months-long trial that made world headlines.
On Tuesday, Reeva’s mother June said she was launching an anti-abuse organisation in her daughter’s memory.
She refused to be drawn on the appeal process, saying it was “in the hands of the law”.