Officials recommend Pistorius release after just 10 months

Jun 8, 2015 1:31 PM by News Staff

JOHANNESBURG - Prison officials have recommended that Oscar Pistorius, who killed his girlfriend, be released from prison Aug. 21 for good behavior after serving just 10 months and be moved to house arrest, the head of correctional services said on Monday.

The news emerged the same day the country's Supreme Court of Appeal announced the prosecution's appeal against Pistorius' acquittal on a murder charge for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp would be heard in November.

Pistorius, the double-amputee Olympic athlete, was found guilty of culpable homicide for shooting Steenkamp multiple times through a closed toilet door in his home in 2013. He was sentenced to five years in prison. Under South African law, he is eligible to be released under conditions after serving one-sixth of his sentence, which is 10 months in this case.

Acting National Commissioner of Correctional Services Zach Modise said Monday that a prison committee recommended last week that Pistorius be released from the prison in Pretoria on Aug. 21, exactly 10 months after he was sentenced and meaning he will have served the minimum amount of jail time his sentence required.

Modise said the committee made the recommendation on the basis of Pistorius' good behavior in the Kgosi Mampuru II prison in the capital, Pretoria, where he has been incarcerated since Oct. 21.

"He's behaving himself very well," Modise said. "He hasn't given us any problems."

Correctional Services spokesman Manelisi Wolela said the exact conditions of Pistorius' house arrest wouldn't be made public.

The prison's parole board had not yet made the final decision to release Pistorius, and the world-famous runner must "keep behaving well" to be released, Modise said.

If released, Pistorius would be under strict probation conditions and would be monitored, Modise said. He said authorities would consider allowing him to begin training again.

However, Pistorius will also again face the possibility of a minimum of 15 years in prison if a panel of judges at the Supreme Court of Appeal overturns the original decision in his murder trial and convicts him of murder.

The court has not yet set an exact date for the start of the appeal, court registrar Paul Myburgh said, but it will be this November.

Last year, prosecutors appealed the decision by trial Judge Thokozile Masipa to find Pistorius guilty of the lesser charge, saying he should have been convicted of murder for shooting four times through the toilet cubicle door, killing Steenkamp. In December, Masipa granted prosecutors permission to appeal her finding at the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Masipa, in the original trial, ruled out the most serious charges, saying the "state has clearly not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder."

Her move shocked many South African legal observers.

The basis of the prosecution's argument for an appeal is that the judge incorrectly interpreted a legal principle under which a person should be found guilty of murder if they foresaw the possibility of a person dying because of their actions and went ahead with those actions anyway.

Myburgh said chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel and defense lawyer Barry Roux had already met with the president of the court.

Some of the details of the appeal hearing have been ironed out: Prosecutors must submit their court papers outlining their argument by Aug. 17. Pistorius' defense team must submit its response by Sept. 17, Myburgh said.

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