Testimony in Oscar Pistorius' murder trial led to a psychiatric evaluation of his mental health when he shot his girlfriend early last year. But a panel of independent doctors has found that the Oscar Pistorius was not mentally incapacitated during the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp, and that he "was capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his act."
The evaluation sprung from one psychiatrists' testimony that Pistorius suffered generalized anxiety disorder from his infancy. Dr. Merryll Vorster testified on May 12, positing that the anxiety was caused in part by the amputation of Pistorius' legs. On May 20, Judge Thokozile Masipa ordered the evaluation, which would establish if he was criminally responsible for the shooting.After Dr. Vorster's testimony, prosecutor Gerrie Nel urged the judge to order a psychiatric evaluation, even though the athlete's defense hadn't asked for one. This gamble, according the CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps, was a hope from the prosecution that the doctors would disagree with Dr. Vorster's evidence. "Mr. Pistorius did not suffer from a mental illness or defect that would have rendered him criminally not responsible for the offense charged," Nel told ABC News. Pistorius has admitted to fatally shooting his girlfriend, model and law school graduate Reeva Steenkamp, through a bathroom door in February 2013. But Pistorius has pleaded not guilty in the trial, alleging he did not believe it was Steenkamp, but an intruder to the home. Dr. Vorster said that his anxiety would have given him a heightened concern about security, leading him to feel that he was threatened even when he was not.
The Guardian reported Dr. Vorster's comments to the court:
He certainly was able to appreciate the difference between right and wrong, but it may be that his ability to act in accordance with such appreciation was affected by this generalized anxiety disorder.
Both the prosecution and defense say that they have accepted the panel's findings. After a month-long break to conduct the evaluation, the defense has resumed its case in Pretoria, South Africa.
The findings aren't good for The Blade Runner. If mental health experts had found Pistorius in any way mentally diminished during the shooting, it could have potentially led to a reduced sentence.