Reports: Pistorius not mentally ill during killing

Reports: Pistorius not mentally ill during killing

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

South African Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius appears on February 19, 2013 at the Magistrate Court in Pretoria. Pistorius battled to secure bail as he appeared on charges of murdering his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on February 14, Valentine's Day. South African prosecutors will argue that Pistorius is guilty of premeditated murder in Steenkamp's death, a charge which could carry a life sentence. AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)

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by JOHN BACON

USA TODAY

Posted on June 30, 2014 at 8:49 AM

Two reports on the mental health of double-amputee Olympian Oscar Pistorius have concluded that he was not mentally ill when he fatally shot his girlfriend in his Pretoria home, his prosecutor said Monday.

Pistorius, 27, is accused of killing model and law school graduate Reeva Steenkamp, 29, at his home on Valentine's Day 2013. The trial resumed after a monthlong break to allow for completion of the psychological evaluations.

"Mr Pistorius did not suffer from a mental illness or defect that would have rendered him criminally not responsible for the offence charged," said state prosecutor Gerrie Nel said, reading from one of the reports.

The panel's reports were submitted to Judge Thokozile Masipa, and prosecutor Gerrie Nel referred to key parts of the conclusions, noting that the experts believed Pistorius was "capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his act." Defense lawyer Barry Roux asked for and was granted more time to study the reports.

The evaluations were ordered after psychiatrist Merryll Vorster testified for the defense that Pistorius, who has said he feels vulnerable because of his disability and long-held worry about crime, had an anxiety disorder that could have contributed to the killing.

Pistorius could face life in prison if convicted in the slaying of Steenkamp, a model and law school grad. Prosecutors say the shooting took place after the couple quarreled. Pistorius denies any argument took place. He has claimed he thought Steenkamp was in bed and that he accidentally shot her through the bathroom door, mistakenly believing there was an intruder in his home.

At his bail hearing last year, Pistorius said in a statement read by his lawyer that after he realized he had shot Steenkamp, he pulled on his prosthetic legs and tried to kick down the toilet door before finally giving up and bashing it in with a cricket bat. Inside, he said he found Steenkamp, slumped over but still alive. He said he lifted her bloodied body and carried her downstairs to seek medical help.

Pistorius, known as the Blade Runner, competed at the 2012 Olympics on specially designed prosthetic legs.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has portrayed the Olympic athlete as a hothead with a love of guns and an inflated sense of entitlement. But he requested an independent inquiry into Pistorius' state of mind, based on concern the defense would argue Pistorius was not guilty because of mental illness.

Pistorius was evaluated as an outpatient at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital in Pretoria, the South African capital. He has been staying at the upscale home of his uncle.

Later Monday, defense lawyer Barry Roux called surgeon Gerald Versfeld, who amputated Pistorius' lower legs when he was 11 months old, to testify about the runner's disability and the difficulty and pain he endured while walking or standing on his stumps without support. Pistorius was born without fibulas, the slender bones that run from below the knee to the ankle.

At Roux's invitation, Judge Masipa and her two legal assessors left the dais to closely inspect the stumps of Pistorius as he sat on a bench.

The athlete was on his stumps when he killed Steenkamp, and his defense team has argued that he was more likely to try to confront a perceived danger rather than flee because of his limited ability to move without prostheses. Versfeld noted that Pistorius' disability made him "vulnerable in a dangerous situation."

During cross examination, Nel questioned Versfeld's objectivity and raised the possibility that Pistorius could have run away from a perceived intruder on the night of the shooting. He also said Pistorius rushed back to his bedroom after the shooting and made other movements that indicated he was not as hampered as Versfeld was suggesting.

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