Court to rule on Oscar appeal

2014-12-08 21:19
Judge Thokozile Masipa  (Phill Magakoe, Independent Newspapers, Pool)

Judge Thokozile Masipa (Phill Magakoe, Independent Newspapers, Pool)

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Pretoria - Judge Thokozile Masipa will rule on Tuesday on whether to grant a State appeal that would open the way for Oscar Pistorius to serve more time behind bars for shooting his girlfriend.

Prosecution lawyers applied for an appeal after Masipa in October sentenced the Paralympic gold medallist to five years in jail after a trial that attracted worldwide interest.

The judge found him guilty of culpable homicide, rather than a more serious charge of murdering Reeva Steenkamp.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued in appeal papers filed last month that Judge Masipa misinterpreted the law when she ruled Pistorius did not intentionally shoot Steenkamp, describing the sentence as "shockingly light" and "inappropriate”.

Pistorius can qualify for house arrest after serving one sixth of his sentence - 10 months - behind bars, which would mean he could serve the majority of his sentence outside prison walls.

Should Masipa grant the appeal, the case will be heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.

Pistorius admits shooting Steenkamp four times through a locked toilet door on Valentine's Day 2013.

But the judge may not necessarily grant the appeal, siding with defence lawyers representing the athlete who say her interpretation of the law was correct.

If Masipa refuses to grant the appeal, the State can petition the decision.

"I honestly don't think that Masipa would refuse leave to appeal, there's just too much controversy about the judgement," said Martin Hood, a criminal lawyer based in Johannesburg.

"It doesn't matter what the outcome of the appeal is, if the appeal is allowed then other judges will be able to comment on the decision, and that's critical," said Hood, who has been following the Pistorius case throughout the year.

'Effective legal system'

Hood said that with the decision by the Western Cape High Court on Monday to throw out the Shrien Dewani’s murder case, South African courts need to demonstrate they are rigorous and fair.

"From a perception point of view, both public and internationally, we need to tell everybody that we have a robust and effective legal system."

Pistorius, who celebrated his 28th birthday last month, has been serving his sentence in a Pretoria prison.

"He's encountering many beautiful stories from prisoners. There are people there who have committed crimes but whose lives have changed," said his older brother Carl, in an interview with YOU.

Pistorius has been accused of receiving special treatment in one of the most notoriously corrupt prisons, where there is frequent reports of inmates using cellphones and even drinking alcohol behind bars.

Yet Carl dismissed claims his brother is living the good life, saying Pistorius relies on weekly 45-minute visits with his family to leave cash at the canteen so he can supplement his standard prison diet with snacks, including baked beans and canned pilchards.

"He now lives moment by moment," said Carl. "There's no fairy tale."

Read more on:    reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  thokozile masipa  |  pretoria  |  pistorius trial  |  crime

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