If the state succeeds on Tuesday in convincing five appeal judges that Oscar Pistorius is guilty of murder‚ Pistorius could face 15 years in prison.
That is the minimum sentence prescribed for murder where there are no aggravating circumstances and it is the accused’s first offence. A court may impose a lighter sentence if it believes it is warranted.
Senior prosecutor Gerrie Nel will argue his case for a murder conviction for Pistorius in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein‚ with defence advocate Barry Roux opposing.
Pistorius‚ 28‚ was found guilty of culpable homicide for shooting and killing his girlfriend‚ Reeva Steenkamp‚ 29‚ in his Pretoria home on February 14 2013. He said he thought there was an intruder in the toilet when he fired four shots through the door‚ killing the model and law graduate.
Judge Thokozile Masipa found in the Pretoria High Court that Pistorius did not intend to kill Steenkamp and acquitted him of murder. She instead found that he acted negligently and sent him to prison for five years for culpable homicide. He was jailed in October last year.
Pistorius was released from the Kgosi Mampuru II prison in Pretoria two weeks ago after his sentence was converted to correctional supervision.
Should the SCA decide to convict Pistorius of murder and sentence him to more time behind bars‚ he will have to report to prison within a set period — usually 48 hours.
He would be eligible for parole after serving half of his sentence.
The arguments in the SCA will focus on the interpretation of the principle of dolus eventualis. According to this principle‚ someone is guilty of murder even if he did not directly intend to kill someone but foresaw the possibility that it might happen and reconciled himself with it by proceeding with his actions.
Nel‚ in the state’s court papers‚ said: “We argue that the only conceivable finding based on the … [accepted facts] could at a minimum be that‚ in arming himself‚ walking to the bathroom with the intention to shoot‚ whilst knowing that there is a person behind a closed door of a small cubicle and intentionally firing four shots‚ should be that [Pistorius] intended to kill the person in the cubicle.”
But Roux countered that Masipa “appreciated that Pistorius‚ in firing the shots in quick succession‚ did not in that moment entertain the intention to kill‚ either in a goal directed manner or by foresight and reconciliation…“
The defence also argued that the state is asking the SCA to reconsider the trial court’s interpretation of the facts‚ while the state is only allowed to question the interpretation of the law.