The murder trial of South African runner Oscar Pistorius, the paralympian accused of murdering his girlfriend, resumes on Monday after a month of mental evaluations to determine if an anxiety disorder could have influenced his actions the night he killed his girlfriend.
The presiding judge is expected to receive reports from the three psychiatrists and one clinical psychologist who tested the Olympic athlete. The evaluation was ordered after a psychiatrist testified for the defense that Pistorius had an anxiety disorder that could have contributed to the killing of Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of February 14, 2013.
Pistorius has denied the murder charges and said that he shot Steenkamp mistaking her for an intruder who had entered his house through the toilet window but the state insisted that it was pre-meditated murder.
The prosecutor has charged that Pistorius killed the 29 year old model after an argument. Pistorius is known as the ‘blade runner’ for his carbon fiber prosthetic legs. He was the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics at the 2012 games in London.
If found guilty of murder, Pistorius could face life imprisonment. If he is acquitted of that charge, the court will consider an alternative charge of culpable homicide, for which he could receive about 15 years in prison.
The state applied to have Pistorius referred for mental observation after a defence witness diagnosed the athlete with a general anxiety disorder (GAD).
Pistorius’s attorney, Brian Webber, said on Friday that the evaluation was complete and they were ready to go back to court Monday.
“If they diagnose a serious mental illness, Pistorius may get admitted to psychiatric hospital indefinitely”, said Sean Kaliski, a forensic psychiatrist who conducts hundreds of medical assessments annually at Valkenberg Hospital, a facility outside Cape Town.
But it is highly unlikely that a relatively minor disorder such as a generalised anxiety could have an impact on sentencing in a murder trial, said Kaliski.