Oscar Pistorius Psych Ruling 'Not Good' for Blade Runner, Expert Says

Pistorius lawyers try to cast doubt on witnesses who heard screaming.

ByABC News
June 30, 2014, 4:31 AM

Pretoria, South Africa — -- Oscar Pistorius was not suffering from a mental condition on Valentine’s Day 2013 when he shot and killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a finding by a panel of mental health experts that could pose a problem for Pistorius' legal defense.

"The finding is not good for the defense," criminal defense attorney Anton Smith who has monitored the trial told ABC News.

Smith said the conclusion was not good for Pistorius "neither in terms of their strategy, as they tried to illustrate a possible diminished culpability, nor in terms of a possible factor once they start arguing in mitigation of sentence."

Pistorius' lawyer resumed their defense after a month-long break for his psychiatric evaluation by having the legless sprinter take off his prosthetics in court again today and by trying to cast doubt on the testimony of neighbors who said they heard a woman screaming before the shots were fired.

The athlete’s murder trial resumed today with the introduction of the much anticipated report on whether Pistorius suffers from a generalized anxiety disorder that could have influenced his actions the night he shot Steenkamp.

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Judge Thokozile Masipa received the analysis from a panel of one psychologist and three psychiatrists who assessed whether the double-amputee athlete – known as Blade Runner for his prosthetics – was capable of understanding the wrongfulness of shooting Steenkamp. Had Pistorius been deemed mentally ill during the shooting, the trial would have ended in a not guilty verdict by reason of insanity.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel referred to key parts of the conclusions, noting that the experts believed Pistorius was "capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his act" when he killed Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model.

"Mr. Pistorius did not suffer from a mental illness or defect that would have rendered him criminally not responsible for the offence charged," Nel said.

The world will have to wait to read the assessments: The full report has not been made public because the prosecution might call witnesses to testify about it.

Sitting in court today, Pistorius stared straight ahead as Nel read excerpts from the doctors’ assessments.

Later, defense advocate Barry Roux called the doctor who amputated Pistorius' legs below the knees when he was 11 months old. Dr. Gerry Versfeld testified that the athlete had limited mobility on his stumps and would have difficulty maintaining his balance in the dark.

Pistorius was again asked to remove his prosthetic legs and Versfeld took his stumps into his hands as he demonstrated to the judge the difficulty Pistorius had in moving, owing to soft tissue under the athlete's stumps that slipped easily.

Versfeld said it was unlikely that Pistorius struck the toilet door with a cricket bat while on his stumps. He said the athlete would not have enough balance.

Nel questioned the orthopedic surgeon about this evidence, saying he could not reconcile Pistorius' version of what happened on the night of the shooting with his testimony.

"You said he often falls. Do you know that on that particular night he never fell? Did you not ask him what happened that night?" Nel asked Versfeld.