Pistorius to start psychiatric evaluation, murder trial postponed until June 30
PRETORIA, South Africa — Oscar Pistorius must report for a month-long mental examination starting next Monday, the judge in his murder trial said Tuesday.
But unlike many defendants who have been ordered to psychiatric evaluation, the Olympian will not to stay in a medical facility. Judge Thokozile Masipa said Pistorius must report each weekday starting Monday, but will have evenings and weekends free.
The trial will not resume until June 30, Masipa said.
The testing was triggered by the testimony of a psychiatrist who said that the sprinter has suffered from generalized anxiety disorder since he was an infant, stemming partly from the amputation of both of his lower legs because of a genetic defect.
Pistorius, 27, is accused of murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, in his home last year.
Pistorius has not claimed he was insane or mentally incapacitated when he shot her. But when the defense put the psychiatrist on the stand, it raised the question of the athlete’s mental health, the judge said last week.
The expert panel evaluating Pistorius has three options:
1) They could find that Pistorius was mentally incapacitated when he shot Steenkamp, which would end the trial immediately in a verdict of not guilty by reason of mental illness. That would lead to the athlete being committed to a mental institution until he is ruled not to be a danger.
2) The doctors could also find that he had “diminished responsibility” at the time he killed Steenkamp. In that case, the trial would resume, and the experts’ finding would be taken into consideration during sentencing if he is found guilty.
3) The third possibility is that the experts could disagree with the defense psychiatrist and say that Pistorius’ mental health is not an issue at all.