Oscar Pistorius Trial: Prosecutors Sprint to Appeal Conviction and Sentence

By: Rachel Stewart

South African prosecutors say they are seeking an appeal against the conviction and sentence given to Paralympian Oscar Pistorius for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Oscar Pistorius is an Olympic South African runner who is also a double amputee. On February 14, 2013, Pistorius shot and killed Steenkamp, claiming he thought she was an intruder. Soon after, he was taken into police custody, and on September 11, 2014, Judge Thokozile Masipa delivered the verdict that Pistorious was acquitted of murder, but was guilty of culpable homicide, similar to manslaughter in U.S. law, and reckless endangerment with a firearm. Last week, Pistorius began serving his five-year prison sentence, although he could be out in as little as ten months, according to defense lawyer, Barry Roux. He was additionally given a three-year suspended sentence for the gun-related charges.

On Monday, the National Prosecution Authority of South Africa said in a statement, “Today we announce that the decision to appeal both the conviction and sentence has been taken.”   They have not elaborated much, but their spokesmen, Nathi Mncube said in a statement released to South Africa’s timeslive.com, “The appeal on conviction is based on the question of law.”

The thought is that the state will argue that Masipa misinterpreted the law regarding dolus eventualis murder, which was what Pistorius was charged with. Dolus eventualis, also known as the common-law murder, applies if the perpetrator knew that their actions could result in the death of another and continued regardless of that fact. Masipa ruled that this did not apply to Pistorius. Critics of the ruling say that dolus eventualis includes instances wherein someone means to kill one person and ends up killing another, as with the case of Pistorius.

When asked when details would be set out about the appeal, the National Prosecution Authority of South Africa said it would be “within a few days.”

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