Oscar Pistorius murder verdict sought by SA prosecutors

November 3, 2015, 3:36pm


Pistorius is currently under house arrest. Photo by Reuters  

By BBC News

South African judges have heard an appeal on whether athlete Oscar Pistorius should be convicted of murder instead of culpable homicide.

The Paralympian was transferred to house arrest last month after serving one year of his five-year term for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius, 28, shot her through a locked toilet door in 2013 but insists he thought she was an intruder.

No date was set for the judgement that could see Pistorius return to prison. Pistorius and his family did not attend the hearing at South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.

Ms Steenkamp's mother, June, was present, as well as some women activists of the governing African National Congress who said they came to show solidarity with her. The proceedings were broadcast live on television.

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel outlined the state's case for the verdict to be changed to murder from culpable homicide, or manslaughter.

The five appeal court judges did not consider the facts but the application of the law, in a highly technical case. Mr Roux told the judges that the athlete suffered from an anxiety disorder, and he fired in quick succession. "The law is not designed to punish you for a wrong state of mind," he added.

Pistorius' action was lawful, and he genuinely believed that he was shooting at an intruder, Mr Roux said.

During his trial, the athlete said he believed there was an intruder in the house and thought his girlfriend was in the bedroom.

The prosecution argued that who was behind the toilet door was irrelevant, and Pistorius' intent was to kill. The prosecution also want his jail sentence to be increased from five years to a minimum of 15 years.

The final ruling will not be known for some weeks, reports say.

Pistorius was found guilty of the culpable homicide of his 29-year-old girlfriend at a trial in October last year. Ms Steenkamp's relatives have said they think Pistorius is "getting off lightly".

The double amputee was released from prison on 19 October. Under South African law, he was eligible for release under "correctional supervision", having served a sixth of his sentence.

His family said he would "strictly" adhere to his parole conditions at his uncle's upmarket home in Pretoria.

Pistorius competed in the 400m at the London 2012 Olympics, wearing carbon-fibre blades to run against able-bodied athletes.