Judge re­jects re­quest to ap­peal Pis­to­rius sen­tence

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG — A South African judge dis­missed yes­ter­day a re­quest by state pros­e­cu­tors to ap­peal Os­car Pis­to­rius’ six-year mur­der sen­tence, the lat­est twist in a trial that has cap­tured global head­lines.

The mul­ti­ple gold medal-win­ning Par­a­lympian, serv­ing six years for mur­der­ing his girl­friend on Valen­tine’s Day 2013, was not in court yes­ter­day when the judge ruled that the state's pe­ti­tion had no rea­son­able prospects of suc­cess on ap­peal.

Women's rights groups in a coun­try be­set by high lev­els of vi­o­lent crime against women say Pis­to­rius has re­ceived pref­er­en­tial treat­ment com­pared to non-whites and those with­out his wealth or in­ter­na­tional celebrity sta­tus. His back­ers say he did not in­tend to kill Steenkamp. Judge Thokozile Masipa sen­tenced the Par­a­lympic gold medal­ist to six years be­hind bars in July for mur­der­ing his girl­friend, Reeva Steenkamp, in 2013, but the pros­e­cu­tion had said the de­ci­sion was "shock­ingly le­nient".

Pis­to­rius' de­fence had ear­lier ar­gued the state was prej­u­diced and had dragged the case on too long, adding in their court doc­u­ments that "enough is enough".

"I'm not per­suaded that there are rea­son­able prospects of suc­cess on ap­peal or that an­other court may find dif­fer­ently," Masipa said in her rul­ing, dis­miss­ing the state's ap­pli­ca­tion.

Masipa orig­i­nally sen­tenced Pis­to­rius in 2014 after he was found guilty of man­slaugh­ter, but that con­vic­tion was in­creased to mur­der by the Supreme Court of Ap­peal (SCA) in De­cem­ber. The sub­se­quent six-year sen­tence she passed in July was also crit­i­cised by women's groups for be­ing too le­nient.

Pros­e­cu­tor Ger­rie Nel, who had sought 15 years for Pis­to­rius for the mur­der con­vic­tion, told Reuters he could not com­ment. Nel has said Pis­to­rius had not shown any re­morse and had yet to ex­plain why he fired the fa­tal shots.

"His re­morse and or prospects of re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing could not be tested," Nel ar­gued be­fore Masipa's rul­ing, re­fer­ring to Pis­to­rius' de­ci­sion not to tes­tify at the sen­tenc­ing hear­ings.

It was un­clear whether the state would ap­peal Fri­day's rul­ing. The Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity (NPA) spokesman was not avail­able to com­ment.

Both the Pis­to­rius and Steenkamp fam­i­lies de­clined to com­ment fol­low­ing Masipa's rul­ing.

Pis­to­rius, who had the lower part of his legs am­pu­tated when he was a baby, says he fired four shots into the toi­let door at his lux­ury Pre­to­ria home in the mis­taken be­lief that an in­truder was hid­ing be­hind it.

His de­fence has ar­gued that his dis­abil­ity and men­tal stress that oc­curred in the af­ter­math of the killing should be con­sid­ered as mit­i­gat­ing cir­cum­stances.

"This trial and this process has been ex­hausted be­yond any con­ceiv­able ex­haus­tive process," his main de­fence lawyer Barry Roux said in a brief re­but­tal.

The track star was treated in hospi­tal for wrist in­juries ear­lier this month, but pri­son of­fi­cials said Pis­to­rius de­nied try­ing to kill him­self. The in­ci­dent co­in­cided with the first day of com­pe­ti­tion in the Rio Olympic Games.

Yes­ter­day's rul­ing raised fur­ther di­vi­sion, with South Africans tak­ing op­po­site sides on the is­sue in so­cial me­dia.

Le­gal an­a­lysts were equally di­vided on whether pros­e­cu­tors would ap­peal Masipa's rul­ing to the supreme court.

"In my ex­pe­ri­ence over the years, the Supreme Court of Ap­peal has placed a lot of con­fi­dence in our High Courts, and I must say, I would be sur­prised if they had to ac­cept the pe­ti­tion," said Jo­han­nes­burg-based lawyer Ul­rich Roux.

Crim­i­nal law at­tor­ney Zola Ma­javu said the state had a chance of suc­cess if they ap­pealed to the supreme court.

"Re­mem­ber it was the same SCA that over­turned his con­vic­tion on cul­pa­ble homi­cide. So if I were in Ger­rie Nel's shoes I would per­sist so that the SCA can pro­nounce on the mat­ter," he said. — Reuters

Thokozile Masipa

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