AS IT HAPPENED: Pistorius trial, day 31

2014-05-13 09:07

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Oscar's trial - day 31 summary

2014-05-13 14:25

Judge Masipa is set to rule whether Oscar Pistorius should undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Watch.WATCH

Oscar Pistorius's murder trial is expected to continue in the North Gauteng High Court on Tuesday, after the State asked for him to undergo psychiatric observation.



14:10 - See you tomorrow at 09:00. 


13:51 - Pistorius fired at the noise behind his locked toilet door when he shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, Sapa reports.

"What he told me was that there was an intruder. That he certainly fired shots at the noise because he was scared, that was his version," forensic expert Merryll Vorster said.

"He did not specifically say that he shot four times. He said he fired at the noise.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel objected and said that while the athlete was on the stand he told the court he shot at an intruder, not at the noise.

Vorster agreed there was an inconsistency, but said Pistorius's version to her could be accepted.

Read more here.


13:23 - It might be over for the day but Aislinn Laing just tweeted: "Defence team still in court, looking at x-rays of what appear to be legs with a man who appears to be an expert of sorts, intriguing..."


13:11 - Some journalists at court say it has been adjourned for today.


13:07 - So... I think court has adjourned for the day. It appears to have been.


13:01 - "Despite the bitchiness in their arguments, Nel and Roux now chatting amicable, laughing and smiling," tweets Aislinn Laing. Lawyers eh...


12:57 - Judge will deliver decision at 09.30 tomorrow (Wednesday). Watch a full summary of day 31's court proceedings here:



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12:56 - Nel says court is cautioned by all case law to act. He would not have brought mental illness, but defence has.

Wow this has gone on for a bit...


12:53 - Nel: A mental illness is a condition that only a psychiatrist can diagnose, after analysis according to the SCA.


12:51 - Nel says mere fact Roux says they may bring application again after next witness shows that State is on the right track.


12:47 - Nel points out that one of the cases referred to he was involved in.


12:46 - Nel responds: One thing I agree with Mr Roux on is that we shouldn't get emotional (following Roux's rather high-pitched argument).


12:46 - Roux: section 1A - every person presumed not to suffer from mental illness until contrary is proved on balance of probabilities


12:44 - We must take emotions out of it," says Roux (who himself appears to be rather emotional). 


12:42 - Roux: we are calling another witness to talk about fight and flight and vulnerability of disability.


12:40 - Roux: I was asking myself, what's the relevance that Nel says there's 3 versions?


12:39 - Roux says an allegation of mental defect must not be a mere allegation. It must be supported by facts.


12:36 - Roux: you can't just say GAD is mental disorder, you need a second leg to say it influenced..it must be alleged on proper grounds.

Roux is quite animated now...


12:34 - Roux: it’s wrong for the state to use this case law because the cases has a history crying out for referral.


12:32 - Roux: The state wants a second opinion through a very strange procedure.We can see the motive,it's quite clear but let's look at the facts


12:28 - Roux reads from case law: "Section 78 does not mean that the mere making of such an indication per se directs the court to make an inquiry"


12:27 - Roux: Mr Nel's reading of the law reports is rather unfortunate.


12:26 - Nel answers judge's question about who the onus is on to prove a psychiatric disorder, says it's up to the defence.


12:25 - Nel: If the court asked me if I thought it played a role, I'd say no. But it has been brought to the court.


12:23 - Nel: We have evidence GAD may have played role...if that is a finding then the accused should be referred.


12:22 - Nel: Vorster referred to his vulnerability as well as GAD, which also adds to the case for referral.


12:22 - 


12:19 - Nel referring to another case now.

Nel says case law shows Appeal Court often made intervention...is there 'reasonable possibility' that court should have done?

Aimee Pistorius looks sad (or at the very least concerned).


12:17 - Nel: Vorster argued accused is danger to society and shouldn't own firearm - that's indication he should be referred.

OP looks as if he's writing.


12:16 - Nel: Pistorius has furnished the court with "3 versions". The court is entitled to know what his defence is


12:14 - Nel: The defence is saying there is an indication that psychiatric factors may have played a role in the incident.


12:13 - Nel reads from Supreme Court of Appeals judgement that a court cannot judge what is a mental illness or disorder, needs professional help.


12:11 - Nel turns to diminished responsibility, a halfway point on "insanity defence". Reduced criminal capacity due to a mental illness. Isn't that then why a psychiatrist is called after his evidence? The timing of calling the witness is important.


12:09 - Nel suggests OP may raise yet another defence.


12:08 - Nel: We made a point that OP was not the most impressive witness. We will argue that his evidence be rejected.


12:06 - The prosecutor again says that friends and OP's ex-girlfriend didn't make any mention of his supposed GAD.


12:05 - Nel: It may later be seen that the court never gave this the necessary attention.


12:03 -  Nel reads case law - court is obligated to refer if there is a reasonable possibility that OP suffers from mental illness.


12:00 - Nel: Roux mentioned the incident of someone assaulting a taxi driver. For someone with GAD that must have been unbelievably stressful.

Nel mentions first example of an accused being referred for mental evaluation.


12:00 - Nel: Defence elected to call Vorster at late stage. No indication, before her, of any psychiatric condition that may have affected accused.


11:58 - Nel: We're saying that the matter doesn't end here.


11:56 - Nel says he is mindful that application might cause delay.


11:55 - Nel quotes Vorster's diagnosis that GAD may have affected OP's behaviour on night of Steenkamp's killing.


11:54 - Nel apologises for typos in short heads of argument summary.


11:52 - Nel ready to bring application to have OP sent for mental evaluation.


11:52 - Vorster excused.


11:50 - Vorster: many people are referred for observation, but it doesn't mean they will be found to be unable to stand trial...


11:49 - Roux: You also spoke about the effect of his mother's death. Would it make a difference that his father was absent?


11:48 - My diagnosis isn't based one factor, it's groupings of all the factors, says MV.


11:47 - Vorster says she looked for delusion and paranoia present in OP but didn't find it.


11:46 - Roux points out that OP didn't use gun when he was physically assaulted. Vorster says this shows he was able to react responsibly.


11:43 - Vorster: People with GAD wake in the night and hear distant sounds...that's not a delusion. That's anxiety.


11:43 - Roux reiterates Vorster's qualification and her experience in observing state patients and patients referred for observation.


11:41 -  MV says GAD not a diagnosis that would require referral of OP for observation


11:39 - Roux says he wants to put her report and statement into proper context, in relation to Section 78 of the Criminal Procedure Act.


11:36 - The use of DSM 5 should be used with an awareness of its categories. Cautions against using DSM 5 to make diagnosis for legal purposes.


11:36 - MV explains that the DSM 5 is a classification system of mental disorders. It has a cautionary statement against its forensic uses...


11:35 - Court resumes. Roux speaks of reference DSM 5...


11:32 - Vorster said earlier: GAD could affect OP’s ability to act in accordance with what’s right and wrong.


11:26 - Nel concludes. Roux asks for 10 minute adjournment.


11:25 - Nel: From a psychiatric perspective, GAD is listed in the DSM 5. MV: Yes, it's contained in it.


11:25 - MV adds vulnerability would also play role. His psychiatric condition remains constant but wasn't tested in other versions.


11:23 - Nel: At this stage there has been no evaluation of his condition in line with other versions before court? Vorster: No.


11:22 - Nel: GAD as a disorder may have played a role in his actions? Vorster agrees.


11:21 - Court is back in session. Nel continues...


11:00 - Puzzled by the sudden flurry about a potential application by Mr Nel for the court to send Oscar Pistorius to a mental hospital for 30 days observation? Health24 explains what it means.


10:48 - Nel asks for early tea adjournment. Wants to get tea and five minute break all in one. Suggests half an hour break. Granted.


10:46 - Nel is still dealing with OP "firing at the noise". MV says he said this to her but Nel points out the athlete never said it in court.


10:43 - He denied that he fired at the noise (behind the toilet door), Nel says. There must be red lights flickering for you, he says. MV: it would appear that there are inconsistencies.

When MV spoke to OP about the incident, he confirmed that he shot but not how many times, she said.


10:43 - Nel: he had an intention to shoot an intruder? Vorster: it's for the court to find as a legal discussion...


10:41 - The GAD would be relevant to OP's defence if the court finds that he shot at what he presumed to be an intruder. If he shot knowing it was Reeva Steenkamp behind the door, then it's not relevant - MV


10:40 - MV: His sexual relationships appear short. He functioned socially, but not optimally...


10:40 - MV says family contributed to his anxiety. "He wasn't allowed to show his prostheses...had to appear as normal as possible". He didn't have a healthy social functioning but he coped socially.


10:39 - 


10:38 - MV says OP clinically presents with GAD - if you look at the history there is evidence of a disorder.


10:37 - Nel asks why MV "elevated the anxiety" of OP to "a disorder." "Clinically," she replies, that's what he's got…


10:35 - Nel: OP wouldn't be the only person anxious about the high levels of crime in SA. Vorster: That's common.

Meanwhile, Aislinn Laing reckons: "I think this court has definitely got stinkier and more acrid-smelling as we've gone on. Might go and investigate in the lunch break..."


10:34 - Nel gets a strange smell... "definitely a strange smell" he says. It's not fire… more like dust. Asks if witness is comfortable to continue. She is. It's dust, he confirms.


10:33 - MV: OP's primary attachment figure was his mother and she wasn't there for his teens, development of his career...


10:30 - Nel moves onto the death of OP's mother and the effect on the athlete. It would have caused anxiety? Yes, says MV.


10:29 - Matric exams would have been an anxiety provoking period, says MV.


10:28 - He was able at age 14 to cope with his disorder. How was it getting worse if he was coping with it, Nel wants to know. As his stresses increased so would his GAD, MV claims.


10:26 - It is likely OP suffered from GAD for many years. He copes now (as an adult) but he didn't know when he was younger that he had a treatable condition, says MV.

DStv Premium, Extra, Compact and Compact Plus subscribers get exclusive programming on The Oscar Pistorius Trial – A Carte Blanche Channel 199.


10:25 - He had no problems at school (academically or socially), Nel says. MV says concealing his GAD as a teen would have been quite stressful.


10:24 -  I'm saying the amputation is a factor that contributed to the development of GAD- MV


10:24 - MV says her report merely tried to show the contributing factors present and the early onset of anxiety.


10:23 - Nel: He suffered from GAD from 11 months. He cannot suppress that? MV: That's a factor contributing to that development. I'm trying to show the court the factors that lead to that. 


10:22 - You've never consulted the father? MV: No. Nel: Don't you think the father would be able to give you valuable information? MV: It would be advantageous to see the father, yes.


10:21 - Nel: OP is a gun enthusiast. So it wasn't only for his safety.


10:20 - MV: People with GAD probably shouldn't have firearms. They are more likely to want to purchase firearms. 


10:19 -  All people get anxious in arguments. That is the nature of an argument.- Nel. MV agrees. 


10:16 - Nel: would the different version not have affected your diagnosis of GAD and the role it played? MV: No


10:15 - Did you ask for other versions, such as the State's, Nel asks. She says all that was available was OP's.


10:14 - My asking of OP's version was not to come to the truth but rather to look at his mental state at the time of offence. - MV

Nel suggests it would have been better to have all versions, not just OP's. I can comment on alternative versions but all I had was OP's.


10:13 - MV confirms she based her report on OP's version. Nel: is that impartial? MV: I made it clear.


10:12 - MV says it was merely collateral information. The purpose of Holmes's report was forensic.


10:10 - Nel refers to the report by Dr Holmes, an educational and industrial psychologist that Vorster also referred to in her report. MV says she didn't rely on Holmes information but it was useful. It was just another source of information, I didn't look at it in great detail, she says.


10:10 - Nel: what factors would be considered at sentencing? MV: anxiety and vulnerability...


10:09 - OP developed depressive disorder which he's being treated for, says MV.


10:08 - MV says that OP "coped" with GAD "perhaps at a cost to himself".


10:07 - GAD isn't an uncommon disorder, in a room like this, MV says pointing out the courtroom, you'd find several people with a GAD.


10:03 - Would one with GAD be triggered by small factors, asks Nel. MV: Not necessarily. 

Nel now refers to incident in the Vaal when OP allegedly shot through a sunroof.


10:01 - The fact that that door is open would make me so anxious I wouldn't be able to sleep, says Nel. It's a possibility, says MV. Not a probability.

Nel takes long pauses as he speaks. As if he's searching for the correct words.


10:00 - But Nel says a person with GAD would ensure the door was locked. Why would he trust someone else if he's overly anxious?

Peoplewith GADs are concerned with their partners' well-being too, MV says.


9:59 - And now onto the balcony door which was open and not locked. MV says if they were living with someone else it would depend on that person's needs and comforts. So it's conditional she says.


9:58 - A person with GAD would ensure that his alarm works, yes? - Nel. MV agrees.

OP still isn't looking up.


9:56 - Nel now brings up house alarm. Roux interjects... To say he wasn't concerned about alarm, it was one part (of OP's testimony)


9:55 - MV says Pistorius relied on beams and passive sensors. Nel argues person with disorder would take quick steps to fix window


9:53 - Nel: if we have person with GAD would that person not take steps to secure rest of his house so no-one could enter? MV: Yes. 

Nel then brings up a broken window in OP's house. If he's so security-conscious why didn't he get that fixed ASAP?


9:52 - Nel says all these security measures, including locking oneself in one's bedroom, are fairly common in South Africa.

"I felt his concerns…were more than that of the average South Africa," says MV, adding "of course I'm not a security consultant".


9:51 - Most people have dogs, burglar alarms, beams in perimeter fences, Nel says. What makes OP special, he asks. Most people don't lock themselves in their bedrooms at night, she claims.


9:49 - Nel asks about OP's security measures at his home.OP increased measures after a burglary but even so still did not feel safe enough.

June Steenkamp is back in court after being absent yesterday (Monday).


9:49 - OP was anxious about crime too, according to your report, says Nel. MV: Yes.


9:48 - MV: Mr Pistorius and his family were not aware he had generalised anxiety disorder.


9:47 - Nel says previous witnesses, friends of OP, including his ex-girlfriend, points out that they didn't notice OP's GAD. MV explains that people with GAD tend to hide their disorder.


9:46 - OP had distress because of his GAD but he was still able to continue with his normal life, MV says of the athlete.

As she speaks, a bespectacled OP continues to look down into his lap.


9:43 - If it's severe enough it could be seen as a mental illness, Nel wants to know. MV: I wouldn't say that... If one has a GAD it would impact on one's ability to live and socialise. One must look at the impact of it on one's life.


9:43 - Would there be levels of GAD, less severe, more severe, Nel asks. MV says with every disorder there are levels.


9:42 - Everyone has something they worry about but people with GAD are unable to set worries aside, MV says.


9:40 - Lots of people are anxious, the prosecutor points out. Again, MV agrees. But a disorder means would have an anxiety more often than not for an extended period of time. The individual sees situations in a more serious light than they actually are, she explains.


9:39 - Nel asks about general anxiety disorder (GAD) diagnosis. One would expect that there would be an impairment on OP's life because of GAD, says Nel. MV agrees.


9:38 - Nel starts questioning Vorster (MV). Asks for a copy of her report on OP's state.


9:38 - Court is in session.


9:34 - If you remember, Barry Roux said last week he hoped to conclude the defence's case by today (Tuesday). Yes well...


9:29 - Forensic psychiatrist Merryl Vorster is still being cross-examined by Nel. Court is due to start within the next few minutes.


9:18 - There are different types of anxiety disorders. Each is characterised by different kinds of fears or concerns. Typically the person recognises that the fear is excessive or irrational.

Anxiety disorders are frequently undiagnosed and undertreated. Read more about the condition here.


9:13 - Barry Roux, SC, for Pistorius, objected to Gerrie Nel's application to have the athelete undergo mental observation, Sapa writes.

Nel asked: "If a person is suffering from a general anxiety disorder, can he be a danger to society?"

Vorster responded: "Yes."

Nel asked: "Would this make him a dangerous person?"

"Yes," Vorster replied.


9:05 - "Retired Judge Chris Greenland says last few weeks at the Oscar Trial a 'pantomime' following defence foray into psychiatry," tweets Oscar Trial Channel's Devi Sankaree Govender.


Watch a full summary of day 30's court proceedings here:



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Read more on:    gerrie nel  |  reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  barry roux  |  crime  |  pistorius trial
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