By Stella Mapenzauswa
Prosecutors argued on Tuesday that South Africa’s ‘blade runner’ Oscar Pistorius should be convicted of murder and sent back to jail for shooting his girlfriend, challenging a court’s decision to sentence him for a lesser offence.
The Paralympic gold medallist was freed on parole last month after serving a fifth of the prison term given to him for the “culpable homicide” of Reeva Steenkamp, who he killed on Valentine’s Day 2013.
Prosecutors began their submissions at the Supreme Court, arguing that a high court judge had made legal errors when she decided not to convict Pistorius of the more serious charge of murder last year.
The 28-year-old track star will not be present at the one-day hearing in Bloemfontein, 400 km south-west of Johannesburg, his lawyer Barry Roux told Reuters.
The five Supreme Court judges could convict Pistorius of murder themselves – leaving him facing a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison – or order a retrial or reject the prosecution’s appeal, legal experts have said.
State lawyers said they would aim to show that the high court not only approached the circumstantial evidence incorrectly, but also incorrectly excluded relevant evidence.
“We have to convince the court that we are dealing with errors of law,” chief state prosecutor Gerrie Nel said.
“The court ignored the most important circumstantial evidence that would make the respondent’s version … impossible.”
Lead defence attorney Barry Roux began his response by disputing the state’s submission on evidence.
“First of all, we submit that the court did not ignore the evidence,” Roux said.
Pistorius, dubbed “Blade Runner” because of the carbon fibre prosthetic blades he uses to compete, denied deliberately killing his girlfriend, saying he mistook her for an intruder at his home.
Prosecutors said Pistorius intended to kill Steenkamp, who they said fled to a toilet during a row. Pistorius shot through the door four times, hitting her.
At the original trial in September last year, high court Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled that the state had failed to prove intent or ‘dolus eventualis’, a legal concept that centres on a person being held responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their actions.
The state argues Masipa misinterpreted some parts of the law and that Pistorius must have known that the person behind the door could be killed.
The athlete, whose lower legs were amputated when he was a baby, was freed two weeks ago in line with sentencing guidelines that say non-dangerous prisoners should spend only a sixth of a custodial sentence behind bars.
He has not been seen in public since then and is under house arrest that confines him to his uncle’s home in a wealthy Pretoria suburb for the duration of his sentence.