crimesider

Oscar Pistorius returns to court after psychiatric evaluation

JOHANNESBURG - Oscar Pistorius returns to a South African courtroom Monday after a monthlong break for psychiatric testing.

His murder trial defense could stand or fall on what doctors found.

"It is my opinion, m'lady, that Mr. Pistorius has an anxiety disorder."

It was this court statement from defense witness Dr. Meryl Vorster that resulted in the judge sending Pistorius away for psychiatric evaluation to determine whether his mental state may have influenced his actions on the night he killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Prosecutors contend the Olympic "Blade Runner" shot Steenkamp, 29, in a fit of rage as she cowered in a bathroom. Pistorius says he opened fire because he mistakenly believed the 29-year-old model was an intruder.

Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital has not been a holiday for Pistorius. He will have undergone rigorous tests by four mental health experts, including ones to determine whether he may be exaggerating or faking mental illness.

On Monday, the court will hear the expert findings on the state of Pistorius' mental health and if this impacts in any way on his guilt or innocence.

Dr Alexander Sasha Barday is a forensic psychiatrist.

"I always look at these kinds of behaviors through the lens of, is this legitimate, or is this malingering?" he said. "Is this an act, or is this a true manifestation of intense emotions associated with this particular situation or crime?"

Veteran South African attorney Renier Spies believes the defense cleverly introduced the anxiety disorder as a means to detract from Pistorius' poor performance on the witness stand. But the prosecution then countered by calling for a psychiatric evaluation.

"The prosecutor, by forcing this evaluation, hopes to pull the gut out of Oscar's already destroyed credibility. He would take what has been almost destroyed completely and there would be nothing left," Spies said.

Despite his monthlong hiatus from the courtroom, Pistorius will most likely be found fit to continue standing trial.

And the case will proceed with the calling of up to three more defense witnesses.

  • Debora Patta

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