Pistorius Prosecutors Start Appeal of Manslaughter Conviction

Oscar Pistorius

Prosecutors in Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial will present their appeal today of the Paralympic athlete’s manslaughter conviction and sentence for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Judge Thokozile Masipa will hear arguments for and against the appeal lodged by prosecutor Gerrie Nel at the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital. Last month, Nel described as “shockingly light” the five-year jail term Pistorius received for his conviction of culpable homicide for shooting Steenkamp through a locked toilet door at his home. Pistorius’s defense team has said it will oppose the appeal.

Masipa cleared Pistorius, 28, of murder charges in September before convicting him of culpable homicide for Steenkamp’s death in the early morning hours of Valentine’s Day last year after an eight-month trial. He’s serving his sentence in Pretoria’s Kgosi Mampuru prison and can be transferred to house arrest after spending 10 months in jail.

“The court will only grant the application if there’s a reasonable prospect for success,” Marius du Toit, a criminal defense lawyer at Du Toit Attorneys in Pretoria, said by phone yesterday. “A mere possibility isn’t good enough; there has to be a reasonable prospect of success.”

Nel will argue that Masipa was in error by not convicting Pistorius of dolus eventualis, or murder, Du Toit said.

“The dolus-effect is a crucial factor for the state; they will hammer on it and argue strongly that the court got it wrong in the way the judge interpreted the principles,” he said. “For the sentence, they’ll argue that you gave a person five years, or 10 months, for culpable homicide of which the circumstances were very close to murder.”

Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic blades, Pistorius was the first double-amputee runner to compete in the Olympic Games.

His trial drew a worldwide audience and derailed the running career of the winner of six Paralympic gold medals and cost Pistorius sponsorship deals with Nike Inc. (NKE:US) and Luxottica Group SpA (LUX)’s Oakley.