Trial told Oscar Pistorius has an ‘anxiety disorder’

Defence lawyer Barry Roux says he expects to conclude his case this week

Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock during his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria today. The athlete is on trial charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Photograph: Reuters/Kim Ludbrook/Pool

Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock during his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria today. The athlete is on trial charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Photograph: Reuters/Kim Ludbrook/Pool

Mon, May 12, 2014, 15:19

Oscar Pistorius‘s lawyers started the final push of their bid to undermine the prosecution‘s case that the Paralympic gold medallist murdered his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after an argument, portraying the athlete as being paranoid about crime.

Merryll Vorster, a forensic psychiatrist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said double-amputee Pistorius (27), suffered from an anxiety disorder and believed he was at a higher risk of crime because he had a disability and was a public figure.

He is being treated for depression and his grief is genuine, she said.

“When exposed to a threat, Mr. Pistorius is more likely to respond with a ‘fight‘ response rather than a ‘flight’ response as his physical capacity for flight is limited,“ Vorster told the High Court in Pretoria today.

“The safety measures he implemented at his home appear to have been out of proportion to that of the general South African population.”

The athlete has pleaded not guilty to murder and said he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he fired four shots through a locked toilet door in the bathroom of his home on Valentine‘s Day last year, hitting her three times.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has portrayed him as a short-tempered gun-lover who shot Steenkamp in a fit of anger.

Since Nel described Pistorius‘s testimony last month as “untruthful“ and “improbable,“ defence attorney Barry Roux has called witnesses who cast doubt on the state‘s version of the shooting and tried to show the runner as being emotionally distraught after the shooting.

Nel said when questioning Vorster that if it was true that Pistorius suffered from diminished responsibility, then he should undergo mental evaluation.

Ballistics expert

Earlier, Nel continued to re-examine defence witness Tom “Wollie“ Wolmarans‘ report on the shooting.

A magazine rack, which Nel argues Steenkamp fell onto when she was shot, could not have been moved to next to the toilet because this would have made marks in the blood pool on the floor.

This contradicts Pistorius‘s testimony that a police officer moved the rack. Roux said he expected to conclude his case this week.

The trial, which started on March 3rd, is being broadcast live on radio and TV. Arguing Pistorius was anxious about crime because of his disability may help the defence show he did not intend to kill anyone when he shot through the toilet door, James Grant, Associate Professor of Criminal Law at University of the Witwatersrand, said by phone.

“It only reinforces the possibility but doesn‘t establish it as a reasonable possibility, which is what the court is ultimately looking for in order to find him not guilty of murder,“ he said.

“None of this has anything to do with the standard to which he would be judged on a charge of culpable homicide.”

Pistorius last month appeared to change his argument from self defence when he said that the shooting was an accident, and that he didn‘t mean to pull the trigger.

Judge Thokozile Masipa, who will give the final judgment in the case because South Africa does not have a jury system, could consider a lesser charge of culpable homicide if she rules that the act was not intentional.

Pistorius would face a minimum of 25 years in jail if convicted of murder.

The athlete has also pleaded not guilty to three separate gun-related charges.

Bloomberg