South African prosecutor asks for Pistorius mental evaluation

Tue May 13, 2014 8:36am EDT
 
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By Siyabonga Sishi

PRETORIA (Reuters) - A South African prosecutor asked on Tuesday for Oscar Pistorius to be sent for a mental evaluation after a psychiatrist told the Olympic and Paralympic track star's murder trial he had an anxiety disorder.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued he wanted to prevent the 27-year-old sprinter, who faces life in prison if convicted of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, from later appealing on the basis of a disturbed mental condition.

Nel told the court there was a "reasonable possibility" that Pistorius suffers from a mental illness, adding that without a proper evaluation the case could later be appealed over Pistorius' mental health.

If granted, the evaluation would likely further delay a trial now in its 31st day. Defense lawyer Barry Roux has argued against the motion, saying it was "premature" to have the evaluation done now, as he planned to call other witnesses.

Judge Thokozile Masipa adjourned the court early on Tuesday to consider the prosecutor's request and is expected to rule on it on Wednesday.

Defense witness and forensic psychiatrist Dr Merryll Vorster testified that Pistorius, who was born without fibulas, suffers from Generalised Anxiety Disorder after having his legs amputated at 11 months.

The anxiety disorder, a long-term condition that causes feelings of worry or fear in a wide range of situations, has worsened as Pistorius has got older, Vorster said.

She has said his parents' divorce when he was a child would have added to his general feelings of anxiety and insecurity.   Continued...

 
Oscar Pistorius weeps in the dock during his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, May 12, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Collingridge/Pool