Trial against sprinter pistorius: court allows appeal

Five years in prison for Oscar Pistorius is not enough for the prosecution. It wants to see the leg-amputated sprinter convicted of murder.

Pistorius had been convicted of manslaughter at the end of October. Photo: dpa

The trial of South African sprint star Oscar Pistorius, who was sentenced to five years in prison for manslaughter, is entering its second round. Judge Thokozile Masipa on Wednesday in Pretoria partially granted an appeal by the prosecution. The prosecution wants to see Pistorius convicted of murder in connection with the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The Supreme Court of Appeals must now consider whether the manslaughter verdict correctly applied the law. Masipa, however, did not allow an appeal against the five-year prison sentence. The prosecution had demanded at least 15 years in prison.

Pistorius had been sentenced to five years in prison at the end of October for manslaughter after a trial that was followed with excitement around the world. He could be released from prison after just ten months and placed under house arrest. The 28-year-old had shot Steenkamp in his home through the closed toilet door on the night of Valentine’s Day 2013. He claims he suspected an intruder behind the door and shot in panic.

Under South African law, the judge herself decides whether to allow an appeal against her own verdict. At Tuesday’s appeal hearing, chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel had called Masipa’s sentence "shockingly inadequate." Prosecutors accused Masipa of basing the verdict and sentence on a misinterpretation of the law. This requires that a defendant be convicted of murder if he could have foreseen that his actions might cause someone’s death and continued them anyway.

The defense, on the other hand, had requested that Masipa reject the prosecution’s objections. Their arguments were flawed, they said. The judge had applied the law correctly. The verdict and sentence should not be reviewed.