Oscar Pistorius' training as a world class sprinter may have played a role in his decision to fire four bullets through a bathroom door that killed his lover Reeva Steenkamp, a leading sports doctor testified today.
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Dr. Wayne Derman agreed with a court order psychiatric report which concluded there are "two Oscars," one of the fastest runners in the world with his prosthetic legs on, and the other a disabled, vulnerable man without them.
The report, written by psychologist Jonathan Scholtz after a 30 day mental health assessment, said, "You've got a paradox of an individual who is supremely able, and you've got an individual who is significantly disabled."
The four-month long trial is near the end of its testimony, but prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked to delay the trial until Monday to prepare additional cross examination of Derman. Nel also indicated he may call to the stand a member of the four-person mental health team that carried out the court ordered assessment of Pistorius.
Derman, who was the team doctor for South Africa's 2012 paralympic team and has treated Pistorius for a dozen years, said athletes like Pistorius undergo specific training to ensure their reflexes at the starting blocks give them the best possible advantage.
"They are trained not to anticipate, but to react," Derman said.
He had previously testified that the sprinter who gained fame as the Blade Runner has "an exaggerated fight or flight response" as a result of his disability and his childhood experiences.
Derman told the court today, "It is my considered view that it is probable that Mr. Pistorius experienced auditory stimuli which resulted in a significant startle" in the moments before he fired. That, combined with his elevated fight or flight response, may have "resulted in the tragedy," Derman said.
Pistorius, 27, shot and killed Steenkamp, 29, before dawn on Valentines Day last year. The prosecution claims he fired after an angry argument with Steenkamp, but Pistorius insists there was no argument and that he thought he was firing at an intruder. He could be sentenced to at least 25 years in prison if convicted of murder.
The trial judge, Justice Thokozani Masipa, ordered that no parts of the report may be published except for excerpts read out in court.