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Oscar Pristorius could face at least 15 years in prison for the murder conviction

By Char Adams
Updated December 03, 2015 07:50 AM
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Credit: Alon Skuy/Landov

A South Africa appeals court on Thursday convicted Olympian Oscar Pistorius of murder, overturning a lower court’s conviction of manslaughter in the 2013 death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, according to multiple reports.

The 29-year-old double-amputee was convicted of manslaughter – technically called culpable homicide – last year, but the appeals court has ruled that the manslaughter conviction was the result of misinterpreted laws and ignored evidence, NBC News reports.

Supreme Court of Appeal Justice Lorimer Leach delivered the ruling on Thursday and directed a trial court to impose a sentence, the Associated Press reports.

A murder conviction in South Africa carries a 15-year minimum prison sentence.

Pistorius shot and killed Steenkamp – a model and law school graduate – through the bathroom door of his home on Valentine’s Day in 2013.

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The athlete maintains that he thought Steenkamp was an intruder when he shot her, but the prosecution contends that he killed her during an argument.

Pistorius has been on house arrest since October, after serving one year of a five-year prison sentence for the manslaughter conviction.

Steenkamp’s mother, June, was present at the Bloemfontein hearing and let out a sigh as the ruling was delivered, NBC reports.

She told NBC that she is thankful and proud that her daughter “got some respect.”

“I wanted respect for my daughter’s life and that’s what I got today, a conviction of murder,” she said. “I feel so proud now that she’s got some respect and she hasn’t lost her life for nothing. She’ll be remembered.”

As for Pistorius’s potential sentence, June said the prison time “doesn’t really matter” to her.

“It won’t make any difference to my life,” she said. “Reeva won’t come back. She’s gone now.”

Pistorius did not attend the hearing. His family said in a statement that it had not decided on the next steps, but had “taken note” of the ruling, the New York Times reports.

“The legal team will study the finding, and we will be guided by them in terms of options going forward,” the family said in a statement.