Pretoria (AFP) – The murder trial of Paralympian Oscar Pistorius resumed on Monday with experts saying they had found no sign of mental illness after a month of psychiatric tests.
“Mr Pistorius did not suffer from a mental illness or defect that would have rendered him criminally not responsible for the offence charged,” said state prosecutor Gerrie Nel.
He was reading from one of two psychologist reports prepared during four weeks of examination by a psychiatric panel and a psychologist. Both said Pistorius could be held criminally responsible.
The star runner is accused of murdering his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.
He admits shooting Steenkamp with a 9mm pistol through a locked toilet door, but says it was a mistake as he thought she was an intruder coming to attack him in the dead of night.
“Mr Pistorius was capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his act,” said Nel. Sitting in the dock, Pistorius stared straight ahead as Nel read the reports.
The month-long mental assessment was ordered by Judge Thokozile Masipa after his defence called a witness who testified that the Paralympic gold medallist has “generalised anxiety disorder.”
The defence team claimed the condition could have resulted in a heightened fear of crime that affected his judgement on the night he shot his girlfriend.
Nel who has been described as a pit bull terrier for his ruthless cross-examination style in the trial, asked the court to closely interrogate the psychiatrist’s diagnosis, fearing Pistorius may exploit concerns about his mental health to reset the case.
Defence lawyer Barry Roux said his team agreed with the report, but asked for more time to review it.
“I also got this this morning,” said Judge Masipa. “I didn’t know where to look, so I decided not to touch it.”
- Deep-seated anxiety –
The trial continues with the defence calling its final witnesses.
The prosecution argues the shooting of Steenkamp was cold-blooded murder following a row between the young couple and has gathered evidence of a tempestuous relationship.
His defence team has claimed the sprinter suffers from deep-seated anxiety dating back to the amputation of his lower legs as a child and the influence of a mother who abused alcohol and slept with a gun under her pillow out of fear of South Africa’s high crime rates.
Pistorius spent a month attending daily sessions as an outpatient at Weskoppies Hospital outside Pretoria from May 20.
The athlete has often broken down during the proceedings, sobbing and vomiting when graphic details about Steenkamp’s death were presented to the court.
His outbursts were so frequent that his defence team started keeping a bucket close by the dock.
His trial started in March and has attracted global media attention. He has pleaded not guilty to Steenkamp’s murder and other charges related to ammunition possession.
He faces a maximum of 25 years in prison if convicted of murder.
Judicial sources say once all the evidence has been presented – estimated to take between one and two weeks – the defence and prosecution will require a few more weeks to compile their written submissions before presenting them to court.
They will return to court to answer final questions on their arguments. South Africa does not have jury trials, so a verdict will be delivered by the judge after a few weeks’ deliberation.
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