The judge in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius on Wednesday ordered psychiatric tests to determine whether he has an anxiety disorder that could render him "not criminally responsible" for his actions the night he killed Reeva Steenkamp.
Judge Thokozile Masipa said a "proper inquiry" was needed to test whether the Olympic and Paralympic sprinter had such a disorder, raising the prospect of lengthy delays in the trial.
Masipa said this line of inquiry bore consideration despite the fact that it had not been raised by his defence team.
"The accused may not have raised the issue that he was not criminally responsible at the time of the incident in so many words, but evidence led on his behalf clearly raises the issue and cannot be ignored," she said.
"Mental illness or mental defect are morbid disorders ... not capable of being diagnosed by a lay court," she said.
Masipa said an order for a full diagnosis will be made when the court reconvenes next Tuesday but indicated that she might be willing to allow Pistorius to be treated as an outpatient.
Pistorius could face up to 30 days of diagnostic tests.
The tests were not meant as a punishment, she said, adding that she was not concerned by delaying the trial as long as the delay was in the interest of justice.
Elevated fear of crime?
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked the court to have Pistorius committed on Tuesday after defence psychiatrist Meryll Vorster testified that the athlete's deep-seated anxiety would have given him a heightened fear of crime, which is rife in the South African capital Pretoria.
Pistorius has admitted to shooting his girlfriend on Valentine's Day of last year but said he did so through a closed bathroom door after mistaking her for an intruder.
Throughout the two months of his trial, lawyers for Pistorius have sought to portray him as obsessed with safety after a difficult childhood and in the face of the high crime levels seen in many parts of South Africa.
Those factors, they say, help explain why he believed Steenkamp to be a burglar when he heard noises in the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Nel said he did not believe that Pistorius's mental state was unusual. He said the athlete's defence team may try to use the psychological evidence to limit sentencing, launch an appeal or review its approach to the case.
"My lady, accused persons have in the past replaced their counsel, particularly when things go wrong," Nel told the court.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-05-14