Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, for a bail hearing.
The multiple gold medal-winning Paralympian, serving six years for murdering his girlfriend on Valentine's Day 2013, was not in court 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's defense 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 criticized 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 the ruling. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman was not available to comment.
'LIKELY TO APPEAL'
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 defense 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 defense 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.
The 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 her 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.
Don't give up and walk away now Gerrie. You have to prove to us that wealth and celebrity do not mean preferential treatment in your justice system, like everyone else's. What is a human life worth these days? Be the bulldog you are reputed to be.
Do it for all the South African women out there who would like to believe their lives are worth more than six years, which will likely transmute to three years with good behavior. It is worth mentioning, also, that his cell is away from the prison population with amenities not granted to other prisoners. Don't let us down Gerrie.