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

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    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?

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United Statesi
    X
    July 28, 2016 2:16 AM
    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora