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Oscar Pistorius mentally OK during shooting, panel says

Jun 30, 2014, 9:47 AM EDT

Oscar Pistorius AP

Oscar Pistorius did not suffer from a mental illness that could have affected his ability to distinguish right from wrong when he shot and killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a mental evaluation panel determined during a month and a half break in his murder trial.

The trial resumed in Pretoria, South Africa, on Monday, its first court session since May 14, when the judge ordered Pistorius be taken for mental tests at the request of the prosecution. A psychiatrist had testified Pistorius suffered from an anxiety disorder.

Pistorius, the first double amputee to run in the Olympics in 2012, was capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his act on the early morning of Valentine’s Day 2013, according to the panel.

The athlete said he thought an intruder was locked inside his bathroom when he shot four times through a locked door, hitting and killing girlfriend Steenkamp inside.

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

Last week, one of Pistorius’ lawyers said he expected the trial to last a couple more weeks.

The orthopedic surgeon who amputated Pistorius’ legs below the knees when he was 11 months old was one of two witnesses to testify Monday.

Dr. Gerald Versfeld, who said he still treats Pistorius, quoted the athlete talking about his difficulty moving without his prosthetic legs on. Pistorius has said he shot at who he thought was an intruder while on his stumps, feeling extremely vulnerable.

Pistorius is unable to stand still on his stumps and estimated he falls once every week or two weeks when not wearing his legs. The struggles are exacerbated in darkness, such as the circumstances the night of the shooting, he said.

“His ability of fleeing is severely impaired, and his ability to ward off danger is severely impaired on his stumps,” Versfeld said.

Lead prosecutor Gerrie Nel questioned Versfeld’s objectivity, especially given Versfeld testified about his visit with Pistorius in May, after Pistorius testified during the trial.

Later, an acoustics expert testified after a 45-minute tea break and a 20-minute discussion about a missing extension cord from Pistorius’ bedroom.

Electrical engineer Ivan Lin said that screams from Pistorius’ bedroom or bathroom likely would not have been audible or intelligible from neighbors’ bedrooms 177m away. Earlier in the trial, neighbors from distances up to 177m away testified to hearing screams, some saying women’s screams, the night of the shooting.

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

Pistorius’ trial is expected to resume at 3:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

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