South African prosecutors argue against Pistorius appeal

MGN Online

JOHANNESBURG (AP) – South African prosecutors have asked the nation’s highest court to reject a bid by Oscar Pistorius’ lawyers to appeal the double-amputee runner’s murder conviction, a spokesman said Monday.

The National Prosecuting Authority filed papers with the Constitutional Court arguing that Pistorius’ appeal was not valid, said Luvuyo Mfaku, a prosecution spokesman.

Lawyers for Pistorius, who killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his home in 2013, had appealed to the Constitutional Court, saying another court erred when it overturned a manslaughter conviction and declared the Olympic athlete guilty of murder.

Pistorius’ legal team maintains the Supreme Court of Appeal, which convicted Pistorius of murder, ignored his vulnerability as a person with a disability. It believes the court wrongly rejected a lower court’s judgment that Pistorius acted out of fear when he opened fire at what he thought, by his account, was an intruder behind the closed door of a toilet cubicle.

However, prosecutors argue that they had appealed the earlier manslaughter conviction because of an error in the way the law was applied, rather than any facts of the case, Mfaku said.

Prosecutors in South Africa can appeal convictions on questions of law, and the appeals court that convicted Pistorius of murder found that the judge who imposed the earlier manslaughter conviction committed a legal error by incorrectly applying a legal principle called “dolus eventualis.” Under that concept, a person can be convicted of murder if he or she foresaw the possibility of someone dying through their actions and went ahead anyway. The appeals court said that regardless of who Pistorius said he thought was behind the door, he should have known someone could be killed if he fired.

Pistorius is under house arrest while the Constitutional Court decides if it will hear his appeal. Sentencing on the murder conviction is scheduled for April 18.

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