South African court orders Pistorius to undergo mental evaluation

Wed May 14, 2014 7:40am EDT
 
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PRETORIA (Reuters) - A South African court on Wednesday ordered Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius to undergo evaluation for mental illness - a move which could determine whether he lacked criminal capacity when he shot dead his girlfriend.

The prosecution had asked for the evaluation after a psychiatrist told the court on Monday that Pistorius, who is on trial for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp on Feb. 14 last year, suffered from an anxiety disorder.

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

Defence lawyer Barry Roux had argued against the motion, saying it was premature to have the evaluation before he called other witnesses.

But Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled that a mental assessment would ensure that Pistorius gets a fair trial, adding that she thought it "strange" that the defence had opposed the motion.

Masipa said the court would hand down the details of the assessment on Tuesday. It would be preferable for Pistorius to undergo the evaluation as an outpatient, she said.

Pistorius, who has frequently vomited into a bucket and broken down sobbing during the trial, showed no emotion as he stood in the dock listening to Masipa's ruling.

"As a family we are comforted by the thoroughness and detail of this judgement," his uncle Arnold Pistorius told reporters outside the courthouse.

The evaluation is expected to take around 30 days and will prolong the trial which began on March 3.   Continued...

 
Oscar Pistorius looks on during his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, May 13, 2014. REUTERS/Daniel Born/Pool