Pistorius ordered to state mental facility

NEED TO KNOW
  • Oscar Pistorius' murder trial halted once again after judge rules he must undergo a 30-day psychiatric evaluation
  • Defense's psychiatrist testified that Pistorius' anxiety disorder would have affected his judgment
  • Pistorius admits he shot and killed his girlfriend but claims he did so after mistaking her for an intruder
Pistorius ordered to state mental facility

Anguish, despair: In court, Pistorius visibly struggling

Anguish, despair: In court, Pistorius visibly struggling

Crime scene photos: The Oscar Pistorius trial

Crime scene photos: The Oscar Pistorius trial

Oscar Pistorius' defense team had indicated that it would wrap its case this week, but now his murder trial has been halted for the foreseeable future as the judge announced Wednesday that he'll have to undergo a 30-day psychiatrist observation at a state mental facility.

The details of when and where the evaluation will take place are expected to be announced next Tuesday when Judge Thokozile Masipa issues her formal ruling on the matter.

Pistorius' uncle, Arnold Pistorius, made a rare statement outside the courthouse following the judge's decision.

Read more: Psychiatrist: Pistorius' mom slept with gun under bed

"As a family we are comforted by the thoroughness and detail of this judgment and Judge Masipa's commitment, using every avenue to ensure to a fair trial," he said. "It’s about a fair trial. It reaffirms our confidence in the South Africa’s justice system."

The prosecution's request for the evaluation came as the defense's psychiatrist, Merryll Vorster, testified about diagnosing Pistorius with an anxiety disorder that she believes could have contributed to his judgment on the night he shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius has never denied killing Steenkamp but says he did so after mistaking her for an intruder in the early morning hours of February 14, 2013. 

Read more: 'What happened behind that door' remains a mystery, says expert

While the defense is not arguing that Pistorius was insane or mentally incapacitated at the time of the shooting, the judge ruled that Vorster raised the issue of Pistorius' mental health, which needed to be examined further. 

Masipa acknowledged that the evaluation would mean yet another delay in the trial but said, "This is not about anyone's convenience, but about whether justice has been served."

She also suggested that Pistorius should be examined as an outpatient, rather than committed, because, "The aim of the referral is not to punish the accused twice."

There could be several outcomes from the evaluation, according to CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps:

  • It could be determined that Pistorius was mentally incapacitated at the time of shooting. This would end the trial immediately and Pistorius would be considered not guilty by reason of mental illness.
  • It could be determined that Pistorius had "diminished responsibility" at the time of the shooting. In this case, the trial would continue but Pistorius' mental health would be taken into account during his sentencing if he were found guilty. 
  • It could be determined that Pistorius' mental health played no role at all. In this case, the trial would continue and Vorster's testimony would be tossed.

Pistorius, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, faces up to life in prison if convicted.

Here are a few photos from inside and outside of court Wednesday morning:

 

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