The world’s media will gather at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein tomorrow where the state will launch another bid to secure Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius’ retrial or conviction on a charge of murder.
However, former Acting Judge Johan Engelbrecht said it was unlikely that the five Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judges presiding in the appeal would order a new trial.
Legal argument will be presented in the state’s appeal against Pistorius’ conviction of culpable homicide, rather than murder, for the Valentine’s Day 2013 killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Steenkamp died of deadly shots to the head, hip and arm after Pistorius fired four times into a locked toilet door at his security estate house in the east of Pretoria in the early morning hours.
The former paralympic athlete, who was on his stumps at the time, said he thought he was shooting at an intruder about to attack them and did not know that Reeva was behind the door. Pistorius was released under house arrest on October 19 after serving a year of his five-year prison sentence.
He is not required to attend the appeal hearing. Engelbrecht said the Appeal Court had the right to substitute Judge Thokozile Masipa’s verdict that Pistorius was guilty of culpable homicide with a verdict that he was guilty of murder, which made it unlikely that they would order a new trial.
If the judges, with Supreme Court of Appeal President Lex Mpati in the lead, found Pistorius guilty of murder, applying the principles of dolus eventualis (indirect or legal intent), they had the right to reconsider his sentence.
Pistorius could then face going back to jail with a minimum sentence of 15 years imprisonment, but only if the SCA found there were no compelling reasons justifying a lesser sentence – which Engelbrect said was obviously not the case here.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel will argue that Masipa had wrongly applied the principles of dolus eventualis and that the court should, at the very least, find that Pistorius had intentionally fired and intended to kill the person behind the door.
Defence advocate Barry Roux contended Pistorius could not afford a new trial, nor could he be tried twice for the same crime.