Oscar Pistorius appeal hearing set for Dec. 9, while defense to oppose appeal

Prosecutors said Monday their application to appeal against Oscar Pistorius' manslaughter conviction and five-year prison sentence will be heard in a Pretoria court on Dec. 9.

It wasn't yet decided if the Olympic runner — who is in jail in the same city — would attend the hearing, his lawyer said.

Prosecutors have said Pistorius should have been found guilty of murder for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Their appeal against Judge Thokozile Masipa's initial verdict and sentence has "reasonable prospects" of success, they said.

Masipa found the double-amputee athlete not guilty of murder for shooting Steenkamp through a toilet cubicle door in his home, ruling that Pistorius did not intend to kill when he fired four times.

Pistorius, a multiple Paralympic champion who ran at the 2012 Olympics on carbon-fiber blades, was instead convicted of culpable homicide, or manslaughter, by Masipa because she said he acted negligently. Pistorius testified he mistook Steenkamp for a nighttime intruder in his home when he killed her in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14, 2013.

His five-year sentence means he could be released after serving 10 months in jail to complete the sentence under house arrest at his uncle's luxurious home, a punishment previously described as "shockingly light" by prosecutors.

If Pistorius is found guilty of murder on the appeal, he would face a minimum of 15 years in prison.

Pistorius' defense team "would be very nervous" if the case was referred to the Supreme Court of Appeal, legal expert Marius du Toit said, because of the chance of a murder conviction. South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority also said Monday it had been informed by Pistorius' defense lawyers that they would oppose the appeal.

Prosecutors must first apply to Masipa for permission to ultimately appeal her decisions in the Supreme Court of Appeal. Their initial application will be heard next month by Masipa at North Gauteng High Court, the Pretoria courthouse where Pistorius' seven-month murder trial was held.

Pistorius can attend the hearing and apply to be released from prison on bail if the appeal goes ahead, prosecution spokesman Nathi Mncube said. Pistorius' lawyer, Brian Webber, said he hadn't discussed with his client if he would appear in court or if they would seek bail.

Pistorius, who turns 28 this month, is serving his manslaughter sentence in Kgosi Mampuru II prison, where he has been temporarily moved to a new cell because of a flood started by another inmate who was arguing with guards, South Africa's City Press newspaper reported on Sunday.

Prosecutors believe Judge Masipa may have made an error by ruling in September that Pistorius had no intention to kill in Steenkamp's shooting death. Prosecutors have cited a section of South African law called dolus eventualis, which says someone should be found guilty of murder if they foresaw the possibility of a person dying through their actions and went ahead — as they argued Pistorius did.

"The NPA reiterates that the decision to appeal was taken on the basis that it believes there exists reasonable prospects of a successful appeal based on a question of law," the state prosecuting body said in its statement.

The NPA wants "clarity" from the Supreme Court of Appeal over the principle of dolus eventualis, it said.