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Judge to rule whether Oscar Pistorius sent for mental observation

May 13, 2014, 8:17 AM EST

Oscar Pistorius AP

The judge in Oscar Pistorius‘ murder trial will rule Wednesday if the runner will be placed under psychiatric evaluation, a decision that could delay the trial significantly.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel formally requested Pistorius be placed under mental observation Tuesday, one day after a forensic psychiatrist testified that Pistorius had an anxiety disorder that may have impacted his fatal shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013.

If Judge Thokozile Masipa grants the request, the evaluation period could last 30 days, according to reports.

Pistorius, the first double amputee to run in the Olympics in 2012, said he thought an intruder was locked inside his bathroom when he shot four times through a locked door, hitting and killing Steenkamp inside.

He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder. If not found guilty of premeditated murder, Pistorius could be convicted of culpable homicide, South Africa’s version of manslaughter for negligent killing.

The psychiatrist, Dr. Merryll Vorster, continued to answer questions Tuesday. She said a person with Pistorius’ anxiety disorder probably shouldn’t own guns but may be more likely to purchase them for protection.

Nel made his request that Pistorius be placed under evaluation after Vorster’s testimony. He and lead defense attorney Barry Roux argued for more than an hour over the application. Roux said Pistorius should not be placed under mental observation and that he planned to call another witness to testify about Pistorius’ mental state.

Nel questioned the timing of Vorster being called, so late in the defense’s order of witnesses. He suggested she was called because Pistorius “was not the most impressive witness” when he testified in his own defense one month ago. Vorster said she visited Pistorius twice, both times earlier this month.

The trial is scheduled to resume at 3:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

Here’s NBC News’ full coverage of the trial.

  1. mogogo1 - May 13, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    At least here in the U.S., psychiatric evaluations typically occur prior to the trial not in the midst of it. Did Pistorius reject that idea earlier but change his mind when he felt the trial was going badly for him? And why is he pleading not guilty to the lesser charges of his firing the guns in the restaurant and his car when those incidents would support the claims he has some sort of paranoid disorder?

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