Oscar Pistorius arrived on Monday at a state psychiatric hospital in Pretoria for the first day of a mental health evaluation ordered last week by the judge at his murder trial.
Mr. Pistorius, 27, a double-amputee track star who competed in the Paralympic and Olympic Games in 2012, is accused of the premeditated murder of Reeva Steenkamp, his 29-year-old girlfriend, in the predawn hours of Feb. 14, 2013. He denies the charge, saying he shot her by accident, believing an intruder had entered his home in Pretoria, the South African capital.
Last week, as the trial entered its ninth week, Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa ordered Mr. Pistorius to undergo a maximum 30 days of scrutiny of his mental health after a forensic psychiatrist, testifying for the defense, said he suffered from a general anxiety disorder dating to the amputation of both his legs below the knee before his first birthday.
Throughout the often-delayed trial, which was adjourned last week to June 30, Mr. Pistorius has arrived at the North Gauteng High Court in downtown Pretoria in a late-model S.U.V., braving a gantlet of news crews and onlookers to take his place in a wooden dock in a courtroom filled with lawyers, journalists and members of his family and of Ms. Steenkamp’s.
But on Monday, he switched to a black sedan with tinted widows, escorted by a police van, news reports said, as he arrived at the Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital, a facility dating to 1892 and occupying a sprawling, 200-acre site. News photographers crowded the vehicle to try to capture an image of him.
Judge Masipa ordered Mr. Pistorius assessed by a panel of mental health experts to determine whether he was criminally responsible for his actions when he shot Ms. Steenkamp through a locked toilet cubicle door. The experts are supposed to rule on whether he could tell the difference between right and wrong and was capable of making that distinction when he opened fire.
If he is convicted of premeditated murder, Mr. Pistorius will face a minimum 25-year jail term, but the psychiatrists’ finding could influence the course of the trial and any eventual sentence if he is found guilty of a lesser offense.
SOURCE – The New York Times Company