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Verdict on appeal against Pistorius due Thursday

Published on 01/12/2015

South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal will announce Thursday its verdict on an attempt by state prosecutors to have Oscar Pistorius convicted of murder and sent back to jail for shooting dead his girlfriend.

The Paralympic sprinter was found guilty last year of the lesser crime of culpable homicide — the equivalent to manslaughter — for killing Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day, 2013.

Pistorius, who said he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he opened fire with his pistol, was released from prison on parole in October after serving one year of his five-year sentence.

“The judgement will be delivered at 09:45 on 3 December,” the court registrar said in a brief emailed statement on Tuesday.

At the crux of the appeal case was how trial judge Thokozile Masipa interpreted the principle of “dolus eventualis” — awareness of the likely outcome of an action — under which she acquitted Pistorius of murder.

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued that Pistorius intended to kill whoever was behind the toilet door through which he fired four bullets.

“Firing through the door at torso level into a small cubicle… the foresight must be that someone would die,” Nel told the court in Bloemfontein at a one-day hearing in November.

The five appeal judges could alter the original trial verdict and send the case back to the high court for a new sentence.

They could also uphold the verdict, or order a re-trial.

If Pistorius was found guilty of murder, he would face a minimum of 15 years in prison.

He may also make his own appeal to South Africa’s Constitutional Court — the country’s highest court.

But defence lawyers say he could not afford further legal battles, having already paid huge legal bills.

Pistorius, 29, was released on October 19 to spend the remainder of his sentence under house arrest at his uncle’s mansion in Pretoria.

He shot Steenkamp, a model and law graduate, at the peak of his fame, following his historic performance in 2012 when he became the first double-amputee to race at Olympic level.

In the shooting’s aftermath, he lost his glittering sports career, lucrative contracts and status as a global role model for the disabled.

His release on house arrest after serving one-sixth of his sentence was in line with normal treatment of South African convicts, but was criticised by women’s rights groups and many others in the country.

Last month he made his first appearance in public since being released when he reported for his first day of community service at a police station in the South African capital Pretoria.