The murder trial of former Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius will be on hold for a month as Pistorius undergoes court-ordered psychiatric testing.
Pistorius is accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013 when he fired his gun at her through a bathroom door in the middle of the night. Prosecutors claim that he did so deliberately out of anger after a fight with the model, but Pistorius says he was defending himself from what he thought was an intruder.
The mental health testing comes after defense witness and psychologist Merryll Vorster said that Pistorius suffers from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). "People suffering from generalized anxiety disorders are not dangerous as such, your ladyship," Vorster said to the judge, but "people with GAD probably shouldn't have firearms. That creates the element of the dangerousness." That heightened anxiety and paranoia may have contributed to the shooting.
Though Pistorius has not used a mental health defense to this point, testimony from a mental health expert raised questions as to his state of mind at the time. "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 raised on his behalf cannot be ignored," the judge said, according to CNN.
The mental health decision is important in deciding Pistorius' culpability in the case. If he is deemed by experts to have mental illness issues, he could be found to have "diminished responsibility" in the murder, creating a less harsh sentence. Similarly, if no mental health issue is discovered after the 30 days of testing, Vorster's testimony will be thrown out and the trial will resume.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.