Oscar Pistorius to be sent for month-long psychiatric evaluation
Published 14/05/2014 | 09:22
THE JUDGE in the trial of Oscar Pistorius has ordered that the athlete undergo a month-long psychiatric evaluation.
The move further delayed a murder trial that has already stretched into its 32nd day.
The state had asked for the evaluation after a psychiatrist told the court this week that Pistorius, who is on trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year, suffered from an anxiety disorder.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has argued he wanted to prevent the 27-year-old sprinter, who faces life in prison if convicted, from later appealing on the basis of a disturbed mental condition.
Defence lawyer Barry Roux had argued against the motion, saying it was "premature" to have the evaluation done now, as he planned to call other witnesses.
But Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled that a mental assessment would ensure that Pistorius gets a fair trial.
Masipa said the court would hand down the details of the assessment on Tuesday, adding it would be preferable for him to undergo the evaluation as an outpatient.
Pistorius has denied he killed Steenkamp in cold blood, saying he shot four times at the toilet door of his luxury Pretoria home to protect himself from what he thought was an intruder.
Pistorius competed against able-bodied sprinters on carbon-fibre prosthetics, becoming one of the most recognised names in athletics. He won a clutch of Paralympic medals and reached the semi-finals of the 400m at the London 2012 Olympics.
Yesterday, The chief prosecutor in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius has asked that the runner be placed under psychiatric evaluation after an expert witness testified that he had an anxiety disorder.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel noted that a psychiatrist for the defence said the disorder she diagnosed in Pistorius could have played a role in his fatal shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his home in February last year.
Mr Nel has acknowledged that an evaluation of Pistorius's state of mind at a government facility could mean the trial will be delayed. Yesterday he referred to a 30-day evaluation period.
Pistorius says he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he shot her. Prosecutors say he killed her in anger after an argument.
Judge Thokozile Masipa ordered an adjournment and said she would rule on Mr Nel's request tomorrow morning.
The prosecutor questioned why the defence asked psychiatrist Merryll Vorster to testify on behalf of the Olympic runner. He has suggested that the trial is not going well for Pistorius and his lawyers are floating the idea that a disorder contributed to Steenkamp's shooting and that therefore Pistorius bears less responsibility for her death.
In asking for another professional evaluation of Pistorius's mental state, Mr Nel appeared to be trying to ward off any attempt by the defence to say Pistorius should be treated favourably by the court because of a mental condition linked to his disability.
Pistorius's chief lawyer Barry Roux said at the start of defence-led evidence that the double amputee's vulnerability and disability was at the centre of his case of a mistaken killing. He said Pistorius should not be sent for 30 days of psychiatric evaluation and that he wanted to call another witness to continue evidence.
Ms Vorster met Pistorius this month, prompting the prosecutor to question whether the timing of her late entry to the stable of witnesses signified a change in tactics by the defence, which has said Pistorius fired out of fear that he was about to be attacked.