Oscar Pistorius Judge Orders Out-Patient Evaluation

The judge in Oscar Pistorius' case yesterday rejected forcing him to undergo a 30 day inpatient evaluation. Instead, saying it was not supposed to be punishment, she ordered an out-patient evaluation. The evaluation will take place at a hospital on the outskirts of Pretoria, and Oscar will be able to spend nights at his uncle's house, where he has been living since the shooting.

That's good news for Oscar and quick thinking by his lawyer, who suggested it as an alternative to the typical in-patient eval.. His family gave a statement afterwards, saying they were pleased by the decision.

The only people who seem disappointed are the journalists covering the trial, since it throws their schedules into disarray. [More....]

It doesn't seem like Oscar's sanity is at issue -- the judge seems more concerned with whether his mental condition might have contributed to the offense, a factor she can take into account at sentencing if he's convicted on the lesser charge, which has no mandatory minimum penalty.

The prosecutor may have just shot himself in the foot with this move. If Oscar's diagnosis of a life-long anxiety disorder due to his physical disability and the pressure put on him by his mother to overachieve is confirmed by the new report, which will be done by a team of experts, there will be two such findings, one of which is by impartial experts who were not hired by the defense.

There's no winning premeditated murder here. The state's suggestion there was an argument is just that: a theory. It didn't prove it. Casting doubt on some aspects of Oscar's version is not enough for a conviction. They have to disprove it beyond a reasonable doubt. Given the conflicting testimony of the witnesses on the screams and shots, with the ones living closest to Oscar and in the best position to hear claiming there were no female screams and none of them testifying to hearing an argument, combined with the defense testimony that Oscar's pitch rises when he yells, I don't see how they make the threshold of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Oscar's bigger exposure is on the lesser charge, and having a second opinion will allow the judge, if she finds him guilty, to impose probation if she thinks he's suffered enough -- the independent expert confirmation will insulate her from claims she is biased or that Oscar "bought" his way out of prison with a paid expert.

I don't see much, if any, downside to Oscar from this. Oscar's case is not the headliner it was at the beginning because it's dragged on so long. The public has a short attention span and demands immediate gratification. Not getting that, they move on to other news and cases. In a month, when the trial resumes, there will be even less interest, or at least less emotion. That will make it easier for the judge to her job, which is to impartially weigh the evidence and decide if the state proved either of the charges against Oscar.

< Tuesday Night Open Thread | Thursday Night Open Thread: >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    I am still interested in this cae. (none / 0) (#1)
    by Rumpole on Thu May 15, 2014 at 02:56:31 AM EST
    It is intriguing to see the workings of a another, quite different judicial system. In particular how a Judicial decision works as opposed to a Jury decision. There seems to have been a lot of emotional and hearsay evidence allowed to be presented in the course of this trial. Some of the evidence seems dubious (eg police crime scene protection). If this were a Jury trial I would have serious worries about a just decision, but perhaps a judge can cut through such limitations and give evidence its proper weight.
    However, having said I am still interested, my patience is nearly at an end. Any trial can be delayed for some "unforeseen" reason.. but this thing has been delayed at every turn. It seems to be the norm to strive to "take advantage" of every opportunity for a delay. (or a tea-break).
    The prevailing style seems to be "Right said Fred, lets have another cup of tea"

    In my opinion, Oscar Pistorious ... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Thu May 15, 2014 at 12:00:30 PM EST
    ... has some potentially serious issues regarding his overall emotional stability that call into question his competence as an adult, and the judge was right to order him evaluated by psychiatrists. I came to that conclusion while he was digging himself into a pretty deep hole with his own disastrous performance on the witness stand.

    First, Oscar apologized to the Steenkamp family for the shooting from the stand while he was under oath, which had the effect of entering said apology into the official court record, and allows the judge the option of considering that public statement as a de facto admission of personal culpability in Reeva's death. What possessed him to do that?

    Further, two former friends of Oscar's, under oath and threat of perjury, told the court earlier during the presentation of the State's case that Oscar had deliberately fired a gun into the air through an open sunroof of an automobile.

    But when he took the stand, Oscar offered no testimony about the event in question and no explanation as to how it could've been misconstrued by his friends. Instead, he simply issued a flat denial that the incident ever happened, and further accused his friends of lying.

    The obvious implication offered by the defendant's testimony is that these two friends somehow got together and conspired against him, knowing full well the potential legal consequences to them, but for reasons which are still wholly unfathomable and perfectly opaque.

    What could possibly have been their motive to perjure themselves and lie to the judge about such an incident? Or conversely, just what is it about Oscar Pistorious that makes these now-former friends willing to lie, first to investigators and then in open court under oath, in order to persecute him?

    The charge of unlawful use of a firearm, as it relates to firing the gun on the night in question, is really of minor consequence in and of itself, given the far more serious charge of capital murder that's presently leveled against Oscar. But his version of this particular event really strains credulity and further hints of paranoia. A verdict on that murder charge could well hinge in large part on issues concerning the defendant's veracity and credibility. And in that regard, he absolutely did himself no favors here.

    Finally, Oscar testified that he had been "scared" and "overcome with fear" on the night he shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp. Yet he could clearly recall much of the events of the next several minutes in rather precise detail regarding when he screamed, how he held his gun, and what he was thinking at various times. Other relatively crucial details he could not recall, such as when he switched on the lights in the bedroom that would have revealed Ms. Steenkamp was not in bed, where he doubtless expected her to be, given his testimony.

    The differences between the sequence of events offered in court by the defendant while under oath as a witness on his own behalf, and that which is contained in his detailed plea explanation, which differs further still from his initial March 2013 statement -- and the fact that each of those two versions was more complete and coherent that what he provided at trial -- again raises questions regarding his overall credibility.

    That's why the prosecutor Gerrie Nel hammered Oscar so relentlessly on cross over questions concerning his truthfulness and his remorse for the shooting. I know the browbeating upset some people, but except when Nel got too personal and was admonished by the judge for it, his was a perfectly legitimate line of questioning, opened by the defense itself.

    I don't think the State proved its case for capital murder. But as for the charge of culpable homicide, the defendant himself voluntarily raised issues regarding his mental stability, his character and conduct, which otherwise might have remained unexplored under the nominal rules and habits that prevail in South African criminal trials.

    And now, without that mitigating circumstance of a psychological flaw that precludes his being held responsible for his own actions that night, I believe that Oscar Pistorious will be held criminally liable for his girlfriend's death.


    You're polite, Donald. (none / 0) (#13)
    by Mr Natural on Sat May 17, 2014 at 09:40:52 AM EST
    I'm still puzzled by the number of people who claim to have been awake around 3AM when this event apparently transpired.  If they were actually awake and within earshot, their claims to have heard nothing before the shooting would be significantly more significant than if they had been wakened from slumber by the noise of the shooting.

    I'm not following the trial anywhere but here.  If this has been explained or if I'm misinterpreting the importance of the earwitness testimony, so be it.

    It looks like the cops bungled the investigation a bit, probably because, having the well developed crap detectors that come with the job, the explanation looked fairly obvious.  Similar to the OJ prosecution fiasco, in that regard.  

    Assumptions make lousy proof.


    Looking for an explanation concerning (none / 0) (#3)
    by leftwig on Thu May 15, 2014 at 12:25:19 PM EST
    witness statements.  My recollection is that the witnesses the prosecution put on heard screaming either before the first bangs and/or in between the two sets of bangs and they did distinctly testify that they heard 2 sets of noises with some time elapse in between.  The defense put on 3 witnesses that heard a mans voice screaming or crying out.  Two of the 3 witnesses did not hear any bangs (gun shots or bat on the door) and one heard exactly one bang with the mans voice following.  If I have the witness testimony correct, then I don't see how the below quote about defense witnesses contradicting prosecution witnesses is accurate.  They didn't hear anything prior to the last "bang", so I don't see how not hearing a woman screaming matters since they didn't hear the gunshots either.

    "Given the conflicting testimony of the witnesses on the screams and shots, with the ones living closest to Oscar and in the best position to hear claiming there were no female screams and none of them testifying to hearing an argument,"

    Andif this is the case (none / 0) (#4)
    by jbindc on Thu May 15, 2014 at 12:27:06 PM EST
    The prosecutor may have just shot himself in the foot with this move. If Oscar's diagnosis of a life-long anxiety disorder due to his physical disability and the pressure put on him by his mother to overachieve is confirmed by the new report, which will be done by a team of experts, there will be two such findings, one of which is by impartial experts who were not hired by the defense.

    And it is true, then justice will be done - he will be confined to an institution until he can overcome his life-long anxiety disorder and not be a danger to anyone else, including himself. Which then will mean that Nel will have done his job - which is to get justice for Reeva, unlike the defense's job which doesn't necessarily have anything to do with justice, but rather defend their client to the best of their ability and hope is acquitted.

    The prosecutor's job is to (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Jeralyn on Fri May 16, 2014 at 10:17:45 PM EST
    see that justice is done for everyone, not just the victim. Only the Angela Coreys of this world think prosecutors represent victims. Don't spread misinformation here.

    Locking up someone who didn't commit a crime is justice for no one.

    Shooting someone is not always a crime, even if the person dies. The required mental state must also be proven.


    That's News to Me (none / 0) (#14)
    by RickyJim on Sat May 17, 2014 at 03:47:11 PM EST
    I am under the impression that in countries with an adversarial system of justice (like the US and South Africa) the job of the prosecutor is to win his/her case.  I certainly know that localities, that employ a prosecutor, have been successfully sued for convicting people who have been later found to be innocent.  I have never heard of a prosecutor getting into trouble solely for filing and winning an unjust case.

    Except Nel is still (none / 0) (#5)
    by Rumpole on Thu May 15, 2014 at 02:05:32 PM EST
    not conceding that OP's "version" is the true situation. Nel maintains there was no "anxiety" over an intruder, and so discussion in regards OP's "General Anxiety Disorder" causing him to assume an an intruder and to explain his reaction to that perceived threat are irrelevant to Nel's case.
    Maybe Nel should have conceded that OP's version is essentially true and then the trial would have ben more about that and OP's reaction to a perceived danger.

     I do cringe at the term "Justice for...." a particular person. Surely "Justice" is justice. Lady Justice is blind.


    Justice is a blindfolded frmele. (none / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Thu May 15, 2014 at 02:13:23 PM EST
    "frmele"? (none / 0) (#8)
    by Zorba on Thu May 15, 2014 at 05:32:28 PM EST
    What the heck is a "frmele"?  LOL!
    Doggone the inability on this site to edit comments once we have posted them!
    I was thinking "free male."  Or maybe "free meal."   ;-)

    I am quite certain capt howdy (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by oculus on Fri May 16, 2014 at 12:38:45 AM EST
    speaks my language.

    I would have recognized (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri May 16, 2014 at 11:03:39 AM EST
    The word totally out if context

    ISn't Nel essentially trying 2 cases? (none / 0) (#7)
    by leftwig on Thu May 15, 2014 at 03:35:24 PM EST
    The judge can consider lesser charges, so Nel has to cover all bases, correct?  Also, I would think if the evaluation shows OP to be of perfectly sound mind, then the inconsistencies and non-sensical explanations of some of his actions helps the prosecutions murder case.  The defenses case is that OP was reacting to a noise and that while some of his actions seem irrational/illogical, the logical explanation for that is his mental state of always living in fear.  If that explanation goes away then the defense has to explain the irrational actions in some other way if they want to be sure to beat the murder rap and/or reduce the sentencing on the the lesser charges.

    prosecutor isn't so dumb (none / 0) (#11)
    by thomas rogan on Fri May 16, 2014 at 05:10:41 PM EST
    The psychiatric evaluation is not restricted to "whether or not he has anxiety".  The talk of an anxiety disorder was meant to make OP look like a good guy.  If this psych eval digs up a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder or, even worse, Antisocial Personality Disorder, that is not so good.  Given the way he handled the testimony about the alleged gunshot out of the sunroof, one never knows how the psych eval will turn out.