A South African court has struck down Oscar Pistorius’s bid to block prosecutors from appealing the culpable homicide verdict handed down against him, in favour of a murder conviction, for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
The Olympic and Paralympic track star is serving a five-year prison sentence after being convicted in October of culpable homicide after a seven-month trial.
A murder conviction might see him jailed for at least 15 years.
During the trial, the state failed to convince judge Thokozile Masipa of Pistorius’s intent to kill when he fired, leading to his conviction for negligent killing or culpable homicide.
Yesterday, Masipa ruled that state lawyers could proceed with their challenge to the verdict she gave in October.
“In my view, to entertain this application would be tantamount to reviewing my own decision... Accordingly the order that I grant in this matter is to strike off the application,” she said in response to a plea by Pistorius’s legal team, which had sought to block the state’s appeal.
Pistorius, who lost his lower legs as a baby, said he accidentally shot Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder at his home, but prosecutors sought to prove during his trial that he had killed her after an argument.
Masipa’s decision to rule out murder was criticised by legal experts as an erroneous interpretation of the law.
By the time the appeal is heard before a panel of South Africa’s most senior judges, Pistorius could be out of prison as his five-year sentence only requires that he serve 10 months behind bars and the balance under house arrest.
Judge Masipa, who presided over Pistorius’s seven-month murder trial and the start of the appeal process by prosecutors, made her latest ruling after a short court session in Johannesburg.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved