Pistorius Begins Psychiatric Evaluation



Oscar Pistorius arrived Monday at a state psychiatric hospital to begin the evaluation which could alter the outcome of his murder case. Pistorius, accused of the premeditated murder of his then girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, says he thought he was shooting an intruder.

Under orders from Judge Thokozile Masipa, Pistorius must arrive at the hospital by 9am and leave by 4pm. Though some believe 24-hour observation would be best, he also has the weekends off. The trial has now been scheduled to resume on June 30, when results should be available.

Masipa initiated the evaluation after hearing a psychiatrist testify that Pistorius, who is a double amputee, had an anxiety disorder which could have led to Steenkamp’s death on February 14, 2013. Amid worries that the defense would declare Pistorius not guilty due to mental illness, the prosecution called for a third party evaluation.

During the 30 day evaluation, Pistorius will spend his off time at his uncle’s house in Pretoria. Though, this has some worried about the results of the test. Some psychiatrists believe nighttime observation crucial to an accurate conclusion. Lee-Ann Hartman, a state psychiatrist, said of late hour observation, “there are benefits.”

The once-loved paralympian runner dubbed “Blade Runner” will go through a series of blood tests, brain scans and may even see a neurologist. In addition, interviews with family and friends may occur.

Despite what some consider limited time at the hospital, Pistorius’ case is cutting the line of many other criminal cases in South Africa, according to opposition member of the provincial legislature, Jack Bloom. He said a number of state cases have been delayed by as much as a year due to backed up state mental health facilities.

“Everyone should be equal…no matter how famous,” said Bloom, asking authorities to explain what he called Pistorius’ “preferential treatment.”

Gerhard Grundling, chair of the South African Clinical Psychology Forum, said independently of Bloom’s comments that Pistorius’ outpatient status will quicken the process.

With day one behind him, Pistorius is sure to trudge through a sea of reporters and bystanders into the doors of Weskoppies Hospital for the next 29 days. He arrived today not in his usual S.U.V. but rather in a small sedan with tinted windows.

Once known as the Pretoria Lunatic Asylum, the state hospital where Pistorius will begin psychiatric evaluation has been open since 1899. Patients and staff had reported uncleanly and crowded conditions in the early years of the hospital, which have since been improved.

Those evaluating Pistorius have been asked by Judge Masipa to determine if he was mentally ill during the shooting. They will need to decide if Pistorius could distinguish between right and wrong and whether he was able to make that decision when he shot Reeva Steenkamp. The conclusion they reach could waive Pistorius of criminal responsibility.

If found guilty of premeditated murder, the once-adored sports star could be looking at 25 years to life in prison. But once the psychiatric evaluation has been reached, the murder case of Oscar Pistorius could begin to shed new light on a high-profile case.

By Erin P. Friar


New York Times
Washington Post