CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Prosecutors pushing for a murder conviction against Oscar Pistorius filed papers at South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal on Monday, four days before the Olympic runner is expected to be released from prison and moved to house arrest.
Court registrar Paul Myburgh confirmed the prosecution’s papers had been filed. Lawyers for the double-amputee runner have until Sept. 17 to file their response ahead of a hearing in November.
Prosecutors want a panel of judges at the Supreme Court to overrule a decision by another judge to acquit Pistorius of murder for killing girlfriend Reva Steenkamp in 2013. Pistorius was instead found guilty of culpable homicide, or manslaughter, for shooting Steenkamp through a toilet cubicle door in his home.
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He was sentenced to five years in jail, but is expected to be released from the Kgosi Mampuru II prison in the South African capital Pretoria on Friday after serving 10 months of that culpable homicide sentence.
Because of his good behavior, the 28-year-old Pistorius can be released on probation to serve the remainder under house arrest.
Prosecutors announced their intention to appeal Judge Thokozile Masipa’s decision shortly after Pistorius’ months-long trial last year. They said Masipa made an error in interpreting the law when she cleared Pistorius of murder and found him guilty instead of an unintentional but still unlawful killing.
Quoting a section of South African law known as "dolus eventualis," prosecutors argue in their appeal papers that the former track star should be convicted of murder because he shot through the toilet door in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day two years ago, knowing that whoever was behind the door would likely be killed and without just cause.
It’s possible to be convicted of murder in South Africa if it’s shown that a person foresaw the possibility of someone’s death because of their actions and went ahead anyway.
Pistorius testified that he shot Steenkamp after mistaking her for a dangerous intruder hiding in his bathroom. If his conviction is upgraded from manslaughter to murder, he would be sentenced to at least 15 years in prison, the minimum sentence for a murder conviction in South Africa, which doesn’t have the death penalty.
The prosecution’s appeal will be heard by a panel of either three or five judges at the Supreme Court in the central city of Bloemfontein. They could convict Pistorius of murder with a simple 2-1 or 3-2 majority.