News / Africa

Pistorius Murder Trial Takes Turn With Psychiatric Order

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius (L) arrives ahead of his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, May 13, 2014.
Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius (L) arrives ahead of his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, May 13, 2014.
Anita Powell
In yet another twist in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, the judge has granted a request to have the athlete committed to a psychiatric facility for observation for up to 30 days. The move suspends Pistorius' trial for killing his girlfriend at his Pretoria home last year.  

Both sides in Pistorius’ murder trial have spent weeks poring over every detail of what happened on February 14, 2013. They have spent hours going over the placement of bullet holes in the locked bathroom door through which the runner fired four shots, killing model Reeva Steenkamp.   

They have reached back into his life story, the amputation of his legs shortly after birth, his ascendance to being the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics in 2012, and that same year meeting the woman he fell in love with, and then killed.

But the main factor, both sides agree, is something no one can see: the inner workings of his mind. What Pistorius was thinking that night is the critical difference between guilt and innocence in this murder trial.

Anxiety disorder

Pistorius argues his disability makes him feel vulnerable and constantly fearful. He says it was that fear that drove him to fire blindly at the locked bathroom door, where he thought an intruder was hiding. He says he did not mean to shoot Steenkamp. The prosecution argues he meant to kill.

Earlier in the week, a witness for the defense, a psychiatrist, testified the athlete’s anxiety disorder may have played a role in his actions. That claim prompted the prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, to essentially ask for a second opinion.

On Wednesday, Judge Thokozile Masipa agreed, essentially ordering the court to to get deeper into his mind.

“The question is whether there was a reasonable possibility that a referral of the accused for observation in terms of section 79 of act 51 of 1977 would reveal, inter alia, that at the time the crime was committed, the accused suffered from a mental disorder which could have resulted in his not being criminally responsible for his act," said Masipa. "Having regard to the facts of this case, I am persuaded that the requirement of a reasonable possibility has been met.”

Masipa will release a more detailed ruling Tuesday, which will include logistical details. The move will then delay the trial for at least one month.

Twists, turns

Law professor James Grant of the University of the Witwatersrand said the psychiatrist’s claim of possible mental illness forces the court to further examine the claim. But he said he does not think the psychiatric observation will find that Pistorius’ mental illness is a contributor to his actions. He said the so-called “insanity defense” claim actually may help the prosecution.

“The referral will, in my view, probably come to nothing. But I think it is going to force the defense to clarify what exactly their defense is," he said. "And that is very positive for the prosecution, because it is then able to focus on disproving the defense. At the moment, the defense is effectively raising a moving target.”

In the course of this trial, the runner has shown a range of extreme emotional reactions, sobbing and even vomiting into a bucket during graphic testimony, but Wednesday, he remained stoic.

In the past two years, he has made a journey that no one expected, from the Olympics, to the trial dock, and now, to a psychiatric ward. The next turn will be revealed when the trial resumes.
  • Oscar Pistorius stands in the dock in court in Pretoria, South Africa, May 14, 2014.
  • Oscar Pistorius talks with his uncle Arnold Pistorius during his murder trial in Pretoria, South Africa, May 13, 2014.
  • Oscar Pistorius is greeted by a supporter on his arrival in court for his murder trial in Pretoria, South Africa, May 13, 2014.
  • Children react as Oscar Pistorius leaves the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, May 12, 2014.
  • Oscar Pistorius looks back as he arrives at the high court in Pretoria, May 6, 2014.
  • June Steenkamp, mother of Reeva Steenkamp, arrives at the high court in Pretoria, May 6, 2014.
  • Kayla Nolan is comforted by her mother, Lynette Nolan, after meeting Oscar Pistorius upon his arrival at the high court in Pretoria, May 5, 2014.
  • June Steenkamp loses her composure as she listens to evidence by the defense in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius, Pretoria, May 5, 2014.
  • Oscar Pistorius cradles his head in his hands during court proceedings in Pretoria, May 5, 2014.

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jaison
May 14, 2014 4:51 PM
Yes the inner working of his mind? Only Oscar knows this, and nobody can unravel this. He for one shall not honestly tell the truth. If he could not remember a simple pin number, what chance is there he will ever tell the truth? The 30 days observation period cannot resurrect what happened on that fateful night. Perhaps the live in Caretaker Franki at Oscar's house, should also be re interviewed by the CID, even at this late stage?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid