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Oscar Pistorius faces tough time avoiding criminal responsibility experts say

Never once during the extensive career of Oscar Pistorius was the medal winning athlete ordered to succumb to psychiatric testing in order to explain his behavior. Today however, the Washington Post reports on May 26 that Oscar Pistorius began day 1 of a 30 day period where he will undergo extensive testing and assessment of his mental health as he faces first degree murder charges for the killing of Reeva Steenkamp.

Oscar Pistorius key players just moments after Judge Masipa ordered 30 days of pschiatric testing.
Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

This phase of the trial for the killing of Reeva Steenkamp is not being accepted easily by many, because to many it means that Oscar Pistorius will walk freely while he undergoes the extensive psychiatric testing as an out patient.

The defense was about to rest in the Oscar Pistorius trial mid-May, until one of the defense witnesses testified that Oscar Pistorius had an anxiety disorder. This testimony came after the social worker assigned to the Oscar Pistorius case testified for the defense. Social worker Yvette van Schalkwyk told the court on May 8 in Pretoria, South Africa that Oscar Pistorius did not say he was sorry the day after he killed Reeva Steenkamp.

A few days later in the Oscar Pistorius trial, psychiatrist Dr. Merryl Vorster testified for the defense saying that Oscar Pistorius suffered from an anxiety disorder that dates back to when he suffered a double amputation at the age of 11 months. It was this chain of events that led prosecutor Gerrie Nel for the State to argue to Judge Masipa that Oscar is “not the most impressive witness” and requested a psychiatric evaluation.

Judge Masipa agreed that Oscar’s opportunity for a fair trial would depend on a full psychiatric assessment to determine if he was criminally responsible for the killing of Reeva Steenkamp. The psychiatric assessment that Oscar will undergo is a 30 day period of out patient treatment where he will be allowed to come and go from the treatment center on a daily basis.

Today was Oscar’s first day of treatment, which he begins at 9:00 A.M. every day, and concludes at 4:00 P.M. when he is free to go. The CBC reports that Pistorius arrived at the Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital today in the passenger side of a black sedan that was following a police escort to the hospital. Oscar was speaking on his cellphone upon his arrival to the Weskoppies Psychiatric center.

During the trial, the Washington Post reports that Oscar is staying at the upscale Pretoria home of his aunt and uncle until a ruling in the case has been determined.

Judge Masipa has asked the Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital team to determine whether or not Oscar Pistorius was struggling with a mental health condition at the time of the shooting. Judge Masipa also wants to know if the existence of such a condition would impact the level of criminal responsibility of Oscar Pistorius.

It is a development in the trial that is difficult to swallow for those that are missing the lovely Reeva Steenkamp. Even legal experts consider this step of the trial to be one that is “preferential treatment”. One area that concerns legal experts most is not just that the killer is walking free, but that his psychiatric testing has occurred so quickly. In many criminal cases, a backlog on psychiatric testing on criminal cases would mean defendants wait as long as one year. Unless they are Oscar Pistorius.

According to the CTV, Jack Bloom, a member of the Provincial Legislature for South Africa says, “Everyone should be equal before the law, no matter how famous.” Bloom expressed to the Washington Post that he felt Pistorus received “preferential treatment” for receiving such “speedy observation”.

If Pistorius knows anything about the history of Weskoppies clinic, he may disagree with the “preferential treatment” picture painted by Jack Bloom the member of Pretoria Governmetn. The CTV reports that this hospital was formerly known as the Pretoria Lunatic Asylum, and was described with anything but glowing terms.

The Pretoria Lunatic Asylum was in use during the Anglo-Boer War in the late 1800’s, and is known in Pretoria for its unhygienic history, its extensive staff shortage, and its crowded conditions. If anyone is concerned over whether or not Pistorius is receiving “preferential treatment” and about to “get off easy” with an insanity defense, other experts that have spent time working with the formerly known Pretoria Lunatic Asylum suggest differently.

CTV reports that these experts revealed in a brilliant 1950’s report that anyone trying to use Pretoria Lunatic Asylum as their get out of jail free card will not succeed. In the 1950’s they wrote, “Any attempt to evade criminal responsibility by simulation of mental disorder is fraught with extreme difficulty.”

Justice for Reeva Steenkamp has been delayed until June 30 as Oscar undergoes this testing.

Do you think Oscar Pistorius is looking for an easy way to get off? What do you think the results of the testing will show?

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