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Justice for Reeva Steenkamp delayed, defense sets stage for a new defense

The family of Reeva Steenkamp will be waiting a little bit longer to see how Oscar Pistorius will be held accountable for shooting his girlfriend to death on Valentine's Day 2013. The CBC News reports that Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has been successful in his bid to have Oscar Pistorius sent for a full mental health evaluation before continuing with testimony in the trial for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. On May 20 the CBC also reported that Judge Thokozile has ordered the accused to begin treatment next week.

Oscar Pistorius just moments after being ordered for a 30 day Psych Evaluation
Oscar Pistorius just moments after being ordered for a 30 day Psych Evaluation
Photo by Pool/Getty Images

According to the CBC, Oscar Pistorius has been ordered to appear at the government facility known as the Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital in Pretoria, South Africa at 9:00 A.M. ET on Monday and each business day after that for a period of 30 days.

The accused will be treated as an outpatient, a condition that is being perceived as special treatment by some sources, and will not be permitted to leave until 4:00 P.M. ET daily unless his supervisory authorities formally excuse him. The testing Oscar will undergo over the next 30 days are an extremely rigorous process according to the National Post.

There will be 4 experts observing and preparing a report on Pistorius for the State. Judge Masipa has ordered that the panel consist of one clinical psychologist, and three psychiatrists. From memory testing to intelligence testing to every cognitive behavioral move and personality disorder in between, Pistorius will have it tested, and he will not be able to fake passing it, or failing it.

This is likely the reason Nel has pushed for this evaluation, to rule out a mental health condition and strike for the harshest penalty possible for the man responsible for shooting Reeva Steenkamp to death.

The number of options on what happens next are widely speculative and will depend entirely on the diagnosis, if any. One matter that will be entertained by all of the psychiatric experts will be, can Oscar be considered non-criminally responsible in this case?

Non-criminally responsible is a legal avenue in South Africa, and in Canada as well, that is similar to the insanity defense in the United States. Many think of this defense as a get out of jail free card, but in many cases, the battle becomes even more expensive, and extensive, and uphill once a determination like that comes down. It would follow Oscar the rest of his life.

Will the defendant come out of this with a diagnosis that will help his defense at the eleventh hour? Or will the prosecutor feel a sigh of relief when the mental health clinic gives Oscar a clean bill?

He has already been accused of being a narcissist by the court of public opinion. And the court of public opinion may not be all that far off.

Psychology Today recently discussed five different signs of narcissists, and many would say that the accused in this case fits the bill on more than one of those signs. Lack of emotional affect was one of those signs. While Oscar has been very dramatic in court, it also entered testimony that when discussing the case with the social worker assigned to the case, Oscar never even said he was sorry for killing Reeva in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Controlling and fear tactics were others of those signs of narcissists, and we know that in one of Reeva's last texts to him, she told him she was afraid of him. She was dead 19 days later.

There is no disputing who did what that night in South Pretoria. What state of mind Oscar was in will determine this case, and if the experts he is being sent to now result in a diagnosis, or multiple, that could work for or against him. In a criminal defense trial, a mitigating factor such as a sudden mental health condition, in addition to an existing disability, might make for a very compelling and sympathetic defendant.

In the meantime, the family of Reeva Steenkamp will have to suffer through those 30 days wondering what will become of the man that made their daughter feel afraid.

In the end it will not matter what the doctor's report will say in the case of the State of South Pretoria versus Oscar Pistorius. The only question that really matters is, will Judge Masipa buy it either way?

Would you?

The trial for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp will resume on June 30, 2014 in South Pretoria.

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