Jun 29 2014, 6:39pm CDT | by Jason Brumett
The murder trial of Oscar Pistorius will continue on Monday after one month break in which mental health experts were ordered to take the time to evaluated the athlete to determine if he has an anxiety disorder that could have influenced his actions on the night he killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Judge Thokozile Masipa is expected to receive the conclusions of a panel of one psychologist and three psychiatrists who were instructed to assess whether the double-amputee runner was capable of understanding the wrongfulness of his act when he shot Steenkamp through a closed toilet door in his home on Valentine's Day last year.
The 27-year-old is on trial for fatally shooting Steenkamp, his 29-year-old girlfriend, in the early hours of February 14th, 2013.
Pistorius claimed that he was not aware that it was Steenkamp he opened fire on and that he had believed his girlfriend was still in their bedroom. Pistorius’s defense is that the event was a terrible accident.
The assessment will determine "whether the accused, by reason of mental illness or mental defect, was at the time of the commission of the offence criminally responsible for the offences charged, whether he was capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his act or of acting in accordance with an appreciation of the wrongfulness of his act," Judge Masipa said.
Pistorius’s defense claims that he suffers from an anxiety disorder. This disorder supposedly causes him to be extraordinarily paranoid about his safety and obsessed with protecting himself.
Depending on what the panel has decided, Pistorius could find himself cleared of the murder charge. It could also seal his fate. There’s also a possibility that the findings have a direct impact on sentencing, should Pistorius be found guilty.
Dr Leon Fine, one of four experts tasked with evaluating Pistorius' mental health, suffered a heart attack on Thursday before he could sign off on the report to be used in court, according to South African media.
Other possible conclusions in the psychiatric evaluation are that Pistorius is not suffering from any anxiety disorder, which could undermine his defense. Alternatively, it might be found that he was incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong or acting in accordance with that understanding, which could lead to a verdict of not guilty because of mental illness and referral to state psychiatric care.
Pistorius faces 25 years to life in prison if found guilty of premeditated murder, and could also face years in prison if convicted of murder without premeditation or negligent killing. He is free on bail.
Pistorius was evaluated as an outpatient at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital in Pretoria, the South African capital.
He has been staying at his uncle’s home.
Source: The Huffington Post: UK Edition
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