Oscar Pistorius verdict: Athlete could still face murder conviction as Judge Masipa grants appeal

Thokozile Masipa says prosecution will be allowed to take case to supreme court

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The Independent Online

A court in South Africa has granted permission for the state to appeal Oscar Pistorius's murder trial verdict.

Delivering her decision in Pretoria this morning, Judge Thokozile Masipa said that while the matter was "not an easy one", prosecutor Gerrie Nel had persuaded her that there were still questions on points of law to be answered.

The case will now go to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, where the state will continue its argument that the principles of dolus eventualis - that Pistorius may have foreseen killing someone when he shot into the bathroom his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was using - were not properly applied.

Despite allowing the appeal on the murder conviction, Judge Masipa rejected a move to appeal the five-year sentence handed down for culpable homicide, as well as the acquittal on a charge of possessing illegal ammunition.

She said she had not been convinced that the jail term set was "shockingly inappropriate", as Nel had claimed, or that there was a chance a different court would come to a different conclusion.

Double-amputee Pistorius is serving his sentence in a Pretoria prison and was not in court today or for the start of the appeal hearing yesterday.

The athlete fatally shot Ms Steenkamp in his home on Valentine's Day last year. He said he thought a dangerous intruder was in the house, while prosecutors alleged he killed his girlfriend following an argument.

In a submission lasting over an hour yesterday, Nel cited a number of complex previous cases which resulted in a retrial. This can only happen in specific circumstances when points regarding the application of the law are under dispute.

In granting the appeal, Judge Masipa said: “I cannot say.. that the prospect of success at the Supreme Court is remote,” adding that the state's contention on the application of dolus eventualis “might have a practical effect on the conviction”.

Nathi Mncube, the prosecution spokesperson, said he hopes the appeal will be “expedited” but acknowledged that the process can take a long time.

“We're happy,” Mr Mncube said after the hearing.

Now an appeal has been granted, Pistorius could still face a conviction of murder - and a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.