PRETORIA, South Africa — Oscar Pistorius was not suffering from a mental illness when he killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp and was able to understand the wrongfulness of what he had done, according to psychiatric reports submitted Monday at the Olympic athlete’s murder trial.
The conclusions by a panel of experts, read aloud by chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel, appeared to remove the possibility that the double-amputee runner could be declared not guilty because of a mental disorder.
The court-ordered evaluation was conducted during a one-month break in the trial, after a psychiatrist testifying for the defense, Dr. Merryll Vorster, said Pistorius had an anxiety disorder that might have contributed to the shooting in his home in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013. Pistorius said he feels vulnerable because of his disability and long-held worry about crime, Vorster noted.
Nel had requested an independent inquiry into Pistorius’ state of mind. The examination was conducted by a psychologist and three psychiatrists.
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Monday, Nel announced the findings when the trial resumed. However, he quoted only briefly from the conclusions, and the entire reports were not released, raising questions about what else they contained.
Pistorius has testified that he fired through a closed bathroom door, killing Steenkamp, in the mistaken belief there was a dangerous intruder in his home. The prosecution has alleged that Pistorius, 27, killed 29-year-old Steenkamp after a Valentine’s Day argument.
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.
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 than to flee. During cross-examination, Nel 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.