Oscar Pistorius ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Good morning:

Welcome to The Game Within The Game in which I explain why lawyers and judges are making certain strategic decisions.

Judge Masipa has granted a prosecution request to order Oscar Pistorius to undergo a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation by a panel of state experts. The evaluation will take place over a 30 day period at a state institution. The trial will be suspended until the evaluation has been completed.

Pistorius will not be held in custody during the 30 day period.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel requested the evaluation after Dr. Merryll Vorster, a defense psychiatrist, testified that Pistorius suffers from General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a mental health disorder defined in the DSM V. She described the disorder as a pervasive state of anxiety that began when his legs were amputated below the knees at the age of 11 months, was exacerbated by his mother’s death at age 14, and continues to this day.

She said it manifests as a heightened fear of crime and obsession with personal security and guns with which to protect himself. She also said it likely contributed to his mistaken perception that an intruder was present when he heard a window slide and the toilet door slam, his decision to confront rather than flee from the intruder, and his decision to shoot through the toilet door without attempting to decide who was in the toilet cubicle before he squeezed the trigger.

The prosecution’s theory of the case is that Pistorius invented the story about an intruder to conceal that he lost his temper during an argument with Reeva Steenkamp and intentionally killed her when she threatened to leave him.

Until Dr. Vorster testified, the defense had not argued or presented any evidence to explain why Pistorius might have mistakenly believed that an intruder was in the toilet cubicle. Assuming his version of events that night is true, her testimony potentially bridges the gap between a normal person’s reaction to the sounds he heard and his apparent overreaction. That is why Gerrie Nel asked Judge Masipa to suspend the trial and order the 30 day observation and evaluation.

Judge Masipa granted his request explaining that, because she is not a mental health expert, she is not equipped to determine if Dr. Vorster’s diagnosis is correct and what role his mental state may have played in his perceptions and decisions that night. The evaluation will assist her to make that determination and that is why she ordered it.

I suspect her decision should be filed in the better-to-be-safe-than-sorry category because Gerrie Nel savaged Pistorius on cross examination catching him in several material lies that substantially increase the probability of his guilt, so much so that his GAD may satisfactorily explain why he killed her (i.e., because she was going to leave him) and why he offered such a lame excuse (i.e., yee olde intruder) to cover-up what he did. Consider it a form of insurance.

While the referral for observation may yield information that helps Pistorius, it’s more likely that it will not and in the end justice will appear to have been done, as no stone will have been left unturned leaving no credible argument that Pistorius was the victim of a railroad job.

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10 Responses to Oscar Pistorius ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation

  1. Trained Observer says:

    Off topic:

    FBI: Missing Fort Lauderdale lawyer armed and dangerous …


  2. Pat deadder says:

    Until I read this article I was really angry especially that he will be an outpatient.
    Did I hear Roux will have doctors there as well?
    As well my friend’s husband is on antidepressants and they make him vomit.
    I think he will get away with this because of his money.So I suppose all his other charges will be caused by his gad.

    • Malisha says:

      I don’t believe he’s getting off. The judge saying she needs to consider the expertise about the psychiatric stuff is, to me, a “tell” that she understands that no matter what Pistorius’ psychiatric diagnosis is, he is a liar. I don’t think he’s getting off for the simple reason that this judge is not like the six “jurors” in the Zimmerman case.

      • Pat deadder says:

        Malisha I hope your right.

        • This has been going around the Twitterverse: @BBCAndrewH Masipa said “…referral is not to punish the accused twice”. Could it be inferred that she is already persuaded he’s guilty?

          The other thing I read from another S. African legal pundit is if he was found insane at the time of the murder, he’s automatically committed to a state hospital for the criminally insane. What I glean is that the win for the state is that it erases a 3rd defense.

          And yet more, OP will now have to go thought the entire story again in front of a panel who will ask questions. I’m just fascinated by this process & the theater of it.

          • Could it be inferred that she is already persuaded he’s guilty?

            I don’t assume anything based on what she said because I don’t believe she had a realistic choice other than to grant Nel’s request. If she had refused the request and later found OP guilty, he would argue on appeal that she should have ordered the evaluation and the appellate court might agree.

            That’s why the smart move was to order the evaluation.

            The insanity defense is not in play because he could distinguish between right and wrong and was not delusional.

            Diminished capacity is the technical defense and it goes to the issue of capacity to form intent.

            GAD is a possible way to diminish the seriousness of the offense perhaps to manslaughter or to impose a minimum sentence of 25 years for murder. Acquittal seems unlikely to me.

    • I wouldn’t assume that she will find him not guilty. She basically had to order the evaluation, since the defense injected the issue into the case. Therefore, you can’t assume that her decision means anything except that she was placed in a position that left her no choice.

      • Thank you. We need another meaty case for a month! Here are my suggestions:

        Julie Schenecker murder trial, presently happening. The Judge just said she was not insane at the time she murdered her children.

        Tsarnaev Case, his major league lawyer is the best in the nation I hear in death penalty cases.

        Aaron Hernandez double murder indictment & let’s not forget Michael Dunn is sweating it out in a hot cell in Florida.

        Finally, A 75-year-old Missouri woman (Alice Uden) accused of killing her husband in Wyoming almost 40 years ago was found guilty of second-degree murder Thursday in a case that hinged on whether jurors believed her claim she was defending their 2-year-old daughter.

  3. Malisha says:

    It’s good that she ordered the assessment. My bet is that he comes out with a very specific (NOT generalized) anxiety disorder: fear of conviction and punishment. Also probably a touch of malignant narcissism. And a whiff of “eau de sociopathesis.” Or, as they say in Afrikaans: “Eez gottd Wiggy Piggy Misogyniggy.”

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