Skip to content

Oscar Pistorius to undergo psychiatric evaluation, trial delayed

May 14, 2014, 8:04 AM EST

Oscar Pistorius AP

Oscar Pistorius will undergo psychiatric evaluation, delaying his murder trial, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled Wednesday.

Masipa granted an application from the prosecution that Pistorius be placed under mental observation, citing South African law after a forensic psychiatrist testifed that he had an anxiety disorder. The disorder may have played a role in his fatal shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year and could affect the judge’s verdict.

“I’m persuaded that the requirement of a reasonable possibility has been met,” said Masipa, who did not outline a specific length for the evaluation. “A referral inevitably means more delays in finalizing this matter, but this is not about anyone’s convenience but rather about whether justice has been served.”

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 on Valentine’s Day 2013. He has not claimed he was mentally incapacitated at the time.

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.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Merryll Vorster testified Monday that Pistorius had generalized anxiety disorder, based off two interviews with him earlier this month.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel cited Section 78 of South Africa’s Criminal Procedure Act in applying for Pistorius to undergo psychiatric evaluation. The law states:

(1) A person who commits an act or makes an omission which constitutes an
offence and who at the time of such commission or omission suffers from a mental
illness or mental defect which makes him or her incapable-
(a) of appreciating the wrongfulness of his or her act or omission; or
(b) of acting in accordance with an appreciation of the wrongfulness of his
or her act or omission,
shall not be criminally responsible for such act or omission.

The defense argued that Pistorius’ general anxiety disorder is not a mental illness applicable in the cited law, though it’s clear from the law he could be acquitted if found not criminally responsible for shooting Steenkamp due to mental illness.

“The effect of the evidence is that a doubt has been created that the accused [Pistorius] may possibly have another defense relating to his criminal responsibility,” Masipa said. “There is also a possibility that there may be diminished criminal responsibility.”

Masipa called her ruling an “integral part of a fair trial” and said the specific order will be handed down Tuesday.

Pistorius stood with his hands clasped, wavering slightly, as Masipa spoke for 15 minutes before issuing her ruling.

Masipa said it would be preferable for Pistorius to be an outpatient as he undergoes the psychiatric evaluation.

“The aim of referral is not to punish the accused twice,” she said.

The trial that began March 3 and has taken multiple breaks is now 32 days old.

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

Latest Posts
  1. Lindsey Vonn wins cow in Val d’Isere, one victory from record

    Dec 20, 2014, 8:40 AM EST

    Lindsey Vonn

    Background on the woman whose record Vonn is close to breaking.

  2. Pope jokes: I won’t be around for 2024 Olympics (video)

    Dec 19, 2014, 2:27 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Rome 2024 bid could include events in Vatican City.

  3. Michael Phelps gets probation after guilty plea in DUI case

    Dec 19, 2014, 12:41 PM EST

    Michael Phelps AP

    Phelps was supported by retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

  4. Steven Nyman records Val Gardena hat trick (video)

    Dec 19, 2014, 9:11 AM EST

    Steven Nyman Steven Nyman

    Nyman has won three World Cup races, all in Italy.

  5. Bradley Wiggins on Lance Armstrong, bluffing in Tour de France

    Dec 18, 2014, 4:39 PM EST

    Bradley Wiggins, Lance Armstrong Getty Images

    “He was incredible at that, almost befriending you, and then he’d slip the knife in your back.”

  6. Stephen Colbert and the Olympics

    Dec 18, 2014, 3:33 PM EST

    Stephen Colbert Getty Images

    Colbert had a memorable time at the 2010 Olympic speed skating oval and in an interview with Bob Costas in Vancouver.

  7. Adelina Sotnikova to miss Russia Figure Skating Championships

    Dec 18, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    Adelina Sotnikova Getty Images

    Olympic champion tore an ankle ligament in November.

  8. Lindsey Vonn: I don’t know if I’ll ski slalom again

    Dec 18, 2014, 11:14 AM EST

    AP AP

    Vonn entered five races in Vancouver 2010. She may never do that again at a global championship.

  9. Jon Drummond banned 8 years after assisting Tyson Gay’s doping

    Dec 17, 2014, 5:38 PM EST

    Jon Drummond Getty Images

    Decision details Gay’s acquisition and use of performance-enhancing drugs.

  10. Fukushima wants to host 2020 Olympic events

    Dec 17, 2014, 5:31 PM EST

    AP AP

    Fukushima’s previous governor pitched the area to be part of Tokyo 2020, too.

  11. Brazil names its Olympic sports athletes of the year

    Dec 17, 2014, 3:29 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    A look at host nation medal contenders for Rio 2016.

  12. Wilson Kipsang angry that missed drug test made public

    Dec 17, 2014, 2:37 PM EST

    AP AP

    “It is breach of privacy with malicious target to soil my name.”

  13. Spotlight on Ayumu Hirano until I-Pod, White return

    Dec 17, 2014, 1:51 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Japanese teen says he wasn’t satisfied winning silver in Sochi.

  14. South Korea eyes top four in 2018 Olympic medal standings

    Dec 17, 2014, 9:55 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    History shows that’s quite an ambitious goal.

  15. U.S. will bid for 2024 Olympics, no city chosen yet

    Dec 16, 2014, 7:12 PM EST

    Team USA Getty Images

    USOC could wait until February to announce its city.

  16. Mad Dash: Drug-resistant super bacteria found in Rio bay (video)

    Dec 16, 2014, 11:36 AM EST

    AP AP

    Bacteria found next to the starting point for Rio Olympic sailing events.

  17. Se Ri Pak wants to coach, not play in 2016 Olympics

    Dec 16, 2014, 9:57 AM EST

    AP AP

    South Korea’s most decorated LPGA Tour player would have a tough time qualifying for Rio 2016.

  18. Adrian Peterson won’t try for Olympics, but other RBs might

    Dec 15, 2014, 1:51 PM EST

    AP AP

    Two retired running backs could join a long list of NFL Olympians.

  19. Sochi champions passed over for Athlete of the Year awards

    Dec 15, 2014, 1:38 PM EST

    AP AP

    Roger Federer won the Swiss men’s award, in a year he didn’t win a Grand Slam, over a Slam winner and a two-time Sochi gold medalist.