The Pretoria High Court has granted the State prosecutor partial permission to appeal against Oscar Pistorius’ culpable homicide conviction, in the hope of getting one for murder the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
However, trial judge Thokozile Masipa, who granted leave to appeal the conviction, rejected the application to appeal the five-year sentence.
“The application for leave to appeal against sentence is dismissed. It is ordered that the applicant pay the cost of the respondent ,” Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled in the High Court in Pretoria.
The Judge also refused the State’s application to appeal Pistorius’s being found not guilty on the charge of illegal possession of ammunition.
Pistorius would continue serving his current sentence in the meanwhile.
In September, Pistorius was acquitted of murder but convicted of culpable homicide for shooting dead his model and law-graduate girlfriend Steenkamp.
He fired four shots through the locked door of the toilet in his Pretoria home on Valentine’s Day last year, apparently thinking she was an intruder.
The State argued that the court should reserve four issues for consideration, including whether the principles of dolus eventualis were correctly applied to the case.
During sentencing on September 11, Masipa said it was important to ascertain if Pistorius intended to kill when he fired four shots into the locked toilet door of his Pretoria home on February 14, last year.
“The answer had to be no. How could the accused reasonably foresee that the shots he fired would kill the deceased?” she asked at the time.
“The accused therefore cannot be found guilty of murder dolus eventualis… that however is not the end of the matter as culpable homicide is a competent verdict.”
Someone found guilty of murder dolus eventualis foresaw that his or her actions would cause someone’s death, and carried on regardless.
Tuesday, prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued that Steenkamp was shot dead in “the most horrendous circumstances”.
“The respondent knew there was someone in the toilet, he knew it. He fired four shots… Certainly that deserves to be punished… It’s not someone who didn’t know where the person was.”
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) welcomed the decision and said it was now in the hands of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to set a date for the appeal to be heard.
“This is what we wanted and we were hoping that the judge would indeed deliver judgment in our favour,” NPA spokesman Nathi Mncube told reporters after court proceedings.
“It’s not about winning, it’s about justice and I think justice was served.”
Mncube said if, in the SCA, Pistorius was convicted of murdering Steenkamp, the State would have to argue for the appropriate sentence, adding: “the minimum jail sentence for murder is 15 years”.
The Pistorius family said they would abide by the court’s decision.
“We note the finding of the court and abide by the ruling,” his uncle Arnold Pistorius said in a one-line statement.
On October 21, Masipa sentenced Pistorius to five years in jail for the culpable homicide of Steenkamp. After serving one-sixth (10 months) of it he could apply to be released into correctional supervision.
The State filed papers last month calling for a heavier conviction and harsher sentence.
Nel argued that the sentence imposed on Pistorius was “shockingly inappropriate”.
However, Barry Roux, SC for Pistorius, said law was correctly applied in convicting and sentencing.
Pistorius was sentenced to a further three years, suspended for five years, for discharging a firearm at Tasha’s restaurant in Sandton, Johannesburg, in January 2013. The State did not appeal that.