Inside Oscar’s mindComment on this story
Pretoria - The public is set to get a glimpse into the mind of murder-accused Oscar Pistorius when a psychological report on his mental state – especially at the time he shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp – is presented to court.
The high-profile Pistorius trial resumes in the North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, on Monday after a break during which the Paralympian was referred to Weskoppies Hospital as an outpatient for assessment.
It followed evidence by psychiatrist Dr Merryl Vorster that he had a generalised anxiety disorder.
The outcome of the report, compiled by a panel of four experts who saw Pistorius over a period of weeks, could determine the way forward in the trial.
If the panel finds Pistorius suffers from a mental condition that possibly renders him not criminally responsible for his actions, he could be acquitted, or it could become a mitigating factor if he is convicted.
However, it could also mean he is sent to a psychological hospital for a period deemed fit by the court.
This is according to a former acting judge and one of the country’s top senior advocates, who for ethical reasons cannot be identified.
He acquitted a man some years ago who shot and killed his wife, but was found not to be criminally responsible for his deeds at the time of committing the offence.
The advocate said that if it was found Pistorius was criminally responsible for his actions at the time of shooting Steenkamp, but that his capacity to appreciate its wrongfulness was diminished by reason of a mental defect, this could be used (in the case of a conviction) as a mitigating factor in sentencing.
“The aim is that the judge will bear this in mind when she sentences Pistorius,” he explained.
If the report is a unanimous finding of the three psychiatrists and one psychologist – and not disputed by the prosecution or defence – the court can determine the matter on the report without hearing any further evidence.
If the finding is not unanimous, the experts can be called to the witness stand to clear up the issues.
The defence and prosecution can also call members of the panel to testify if they did not agree with any of the findings and they may also call their own witnesses.
Pistorius has since May 26 been subjected to a battery of tests at Weskoppies, following an order by trial Judge Thokozile Masipa.
The defence opposed the application for Pistorius’s referral to Weskoppies and said they planned to call another witness to the stand, who will shed more light on Pistorius’s anxiety disorder.
Judge Thokozile Masipa, however, said she wanted all the facts at her disposal to assist her when she had to come to a verdict.
The defence, meanwhile, is expected to call about three more witnesses before it closes its case.
It is expected that the trial will then again be delayed for some time to enable the defence and the prosecution to compile written heads of argument, which will be handed to court.
These pertain to legal arguments as to whether Pistorius should be convicted or not.
Compared to his court appearances where he is under heavy media scrutiny, Pistorius has not been photographed since his admission.
However, interest is expected to increase in the case from on Monday.
On Sunday, international media crews were setting up equipment at their positions on the post office roof across the road from the high court from where they broadcast news of the trial across the world.
Once all evidence has been led, breaks are expected before closing arguments and for Judge Masipa to write her judgment.