Oscar Pistorius: Evaluation Might Be What Defense Needs
Oscar Pistorius underwent a psychiatric evaluation recently, and according to his doctors, he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is severely depressed. But he was also likely in a heightened state of fear when he shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day last year, rather than a state of rage.
The evaluation could be a blow to prosecution, as they have been trying to paint Pistorius as a volatile boyfriend with a knowledge of weapons. However, Pistorius–who is a double amputee–has a history of anxiety, especially concerning his own safety, and reportedly kept weapons in his South African home out of fear of a break-in. That anxiety is not uncommon in those with disabilities, a study found, especially in athletes.
“When Mr. Pistorius’s appraisal of the situation is that he might be physically threatened, a fear response follows that might seem extraordinary when viewed from the perspective of a normal bodied person, but normal in the context of a disabled person with his history,” the report said. “No evidence could be found to indicate that Mr. Pistorius has a history of abnormal aggression or explosive violence. Abnormal aggression and violence was never incorporated in his personality… He does not display the personality characteristics of narcissism… that are mostly associated with men in abusive relationships and have been linked to rage-type murders in intimate relationships.”
Pistorius has maintained his story from the beginning of the trial, saying he awoke in the middle of the night to sounds coming from the bathroom off his bedroom. Steenkamp had stayed over that night, but the room was dark and he didn’t check to make sure she was in bed. Instead, he grabbed his gun and fired four shots through the closed bathroom door, thinking an intruder was in his home. Over the course of the trial, Pistorius has broken down on several occasions and was even physically ill after being shown photos of the crime scene and of Steenkamp. The psychiatrists who evaluated the Olympian say he will need to attend counseling for quite a while, and that a break in therapy might lead to suicide.
“Mr. Pistorius is being treated and should continue to receive clinical care by a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist for his current condition. Should he not receive proper clinical care, his condition is likely to worsen and increase the risk for suicide,” the report said.
Image via Wikimedia Commons