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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid