The defense team of paralympian Oscar Pistorius sought on Thursday to show that the double-amputee sprinter acted out of fear rather than anger when he shot and killed his lover Reeva Steenkamp, and a leading sports doctor agreed.
Dr. Wayne Derman testified on Thursday that he agreed with the court-ordered psychiatric report on Oscar Pistorius that stated there are “two Oscars,” one of the fastest runners in the world with his prosthetic legs on and the other a disabled, vulnerable man without them.
Psychologist Jonathan Scholtz wrote the report after a 30-day mental health assessment of Pistorius, a report which stated, “You’ve got a paradox of an individual who is supremely able, and you’ve got an individual who is significantly disabled.”
Derman, a team doctor for South Africa’s paralympic team in 2012 and someone who has treated Pistorius for a dozen years, said, “It is my considered view that it is probable that Mr. Pistorius experienced auditory stimuli which resulted in a significant startle [in the moments before he fired.]” When combined with his elevated fight or flight response, this “may have resulted in the tragedy,” Derman said.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel accused Derman of bias toward Pistorius after Derman refused to consider different hypothetical situation. Nel said to Derman, “An expert in his field would be able to do that—to give the court the benefit of his expertise without being so consumed by the facts.”
Others agreed with Derman’s assessment of Pistorius as a disabled, vulnerable man, but expressed concerns as well.
“I feel we are all being tainted with the same brush of vulnerability,” Ari Seirlis, chief executive of the lobby and disabled advocacy group, QuadPara Association of South Africa, told Yahoo Sports. “There are different levels of disability, and how you react is based on your agility. You can’t hold up gold medals in one hand and a pistol in the other and cry that you’re vulnerable.”
Seirlis described the defense’s use of Pistorius’ vulnerability as an argument as “a selective excuse.”
Pistorius faces up to 25 years in jail and an end to his sports career if convicted.
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