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Prosecutors to appeal Pistorius verdict


Prosecutors to appeal Pistorius verdict

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Prosecutors in the Oscar Pistorius case said yesterday they will file appeal papers in the next few days against the verdict and sentence after the Olympic runner was convicted of culpable homicide and given a five-year prison term for killing his girlfriend.

The decision by South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) could see Pistorius face a murder conviction again for shooting Reeva Steenkamp and, if found guilty on the appeal, a minimum of 15 years in prison.

The 27-year-old double-amputee athlete was acquitted of murder by Judge Thokozile Masipa for shooting Steenkamp multiple times through a toilet cubicle door in his home. He testified he mistook her for a night time intruder. Masipa found him guilty instead on a lesser charge comparable to manslaughter.

The NPA said in a statement its decision to appeal was based on a “question of law”, meaning it believes that Judge Masipa misapplied the law when she acquitted Pistorius of murder.

“The merits and the demerits of the NPA’s argument … will become evident when we file papers for leave to appeal,” the national prosecuting body said. “The prosecutors are now preparing the necessary papers in order to be able to file within the next few days.”

Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel and his assistant, Andrea Johnson, had been “hard at work” since last week studying the judgment, researching and consulting with legal experts, the NPA said.

Prosecutors must apply initially to Masipa for permission to appeal within 14 days of Pistorius’ October 21 sentencing. If Masipa grants them permission, Pistorius’ case would be reviewed by a panel of three or five judges in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), legal expert Marius du Toit said. They could overturn the manslaughter conviction and find Pistorius guilty of murder.

Prosecutors can directly petition the SCA if Masipa denies their appeal, du Toit said.

Pistorius’ lawyer, Brian Webber, declined to comment, while Pistorius’ uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said in a short family statement: “We take note of the state’s announcement. The law must take its course.”

Pistorius started serving his prison sentence last week for negligently killing Steenkamp on February 14, 2013. Currently, the multiple Paralympic champion is eligible for release after ten months to complete the sentence under house arrest.

Prosecutors had said they were disappointed with the culpable homicide conviction and believed they had a strong murder case against Pistorius. A murder conviction has a minimum of 15 years in jail in South Africa.