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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid