News / Africa

Pistorius Sent for Mental Examination

Oscar Pistorius leaves the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, May 20, 2014.
Oscar Pistorius leaves the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, May 20, 2014.
A South African court has ruled that Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius must be admitted as an outpatient at a psychiatric hospital for mental observation for the next 30 days.  The prosecution persuaded the court to have him referred to psychiatrists to establish if he was mentally responsible when he shot and killed his girlfriend. However, the referral has attracted mixed reactions from South Africans.

The murder trial of South African paralympian Oscar Pistorius took a new twist on Tuesday when Judge Thokozile Masipa ordered him to undergo mental examination for the next 30 days.
 
Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through a locked bathroom door on February 14, 2013.  He said he mistook her for an intruder at his house, while the state argued that he intentionally shot Steenkamp after she locked herself in the room following an argument between the two.
 
Last week, Judge Masipa granted the prosecution's request to have Pistorius mentally examined after forensic psychologist Merryl Vorster testified that the accused suffers from general anxiety disorder.
 
On Tuesday, Judge Masipa delivered the order detailing how the examination would take place.

“This is the order that the accused present himself as an outpatient to the Medical Superintendent of the Weskoppies Hospital on 26 May 2014 at 9 o’clock in the morning and on every day thereafter for a period not exceeding 30 days as the court may from time to time determine,” said the judge.
 
Masipa also made it clear what she wanted the three appointed psychiatrists and one psychologist to do.

“Enquire if whether the accused by reason of mental illness or mental defect was at the time of the commission of the offense criminally responsible for the offense he is charged, whether he was capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his act or of acting in accordance with an appreciation of the wrongfulness of his act,” she said.

The decision has attracted mixed feelings from South Africans.  While some think the court is within its right to follow all avenues that will lead to a fair judgement, others like 26-year-old Makhosiwonke Sibanda argue that Pistorius has no mental problems.

“I don’t believe [it].  I think it’s just one of those gimmicks for those who have got money to escape jail.  How can somebody who is mad can perform in athletics and win champions as a mad man?  I don’t believe it,” said Sibanda.

Some are concerned the court might have set a precedent that will open floodgates for criminals to claim mental disorders to escape justice for their wrongdoing.
 
Experts who will examine Pistorius are expected to compile reports that will be considered by the court when the trial resumes on June 30.

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