Updates from Tuesday, May 20
Oscar Pistorius' trial following the shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp has been postponed to June 30, after he was officially ordered to a mental evaluation on Tuesday.
The trial to determine whether Pistorius is guilty of premeditated murder took an unexpected turn last week when the State pounced on the findings of psychiatric Professor Merryll Vorster, a defence witness.
Vorster said the accused's decision to fire his weapon on Valentine's Day 2013 may have been affected by a General Anxiety Disorder, prompting the State's request for a full evaluation.
Pistorius claims he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder.
Judge Thokozile Masipa briefly read out details of Pistorius' evaluation on Tuesday. Key details of that assessment are outlined below by BBC News' Andrew Harding and EyeWitness News' Barry Bateman:
You can watch the live broadcast here (subject to your territory)
Updates from Wednesday, May 14
Oscar Pistorius returned to court on Wednesday to discover he will be ordered to undergo an official mental evaluation, which could last up to a month, after he killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Pistorius is defending a charge of premeditated murder, claiming he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder, but his defence team's own witness—psychiatric Professor Merryll Vorster—sparked debate over the accused's mental health on Tuesday.
Christa Eybers of EyeWitness News provided an image of Pistorius arriving at court prior to Wednesday's dramatic development:
Vorster had spoken of Pistorius' General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and how it heightened his sense of fear, as well as his "fight not flight" mindset. The GAD was proposed as a factor on the night he fired four bullets.
Prosecuting lawyer Gerrie Nel ended Tuesday's session by registering an application for Pistorius to undergo a full mental assessment, and Judge Thokozile Masipa returned to give her verdict on Wednesday.
EyeWitness News' Barry Bateman provided her decision:
Bateman and BBC News' Andrew Harding provided extracts from Judge Masipa's long explanation for her decision:
Court adjourned until Tuesday, when the full details of the evaluation will be announced.
Updates from Tuesday, May 13
Oscar Pistorius' defence team became embroiled in a heated battle with the State on Tuesday, as Prosecutor Gerrie Nel lodged a formal application for the iconic South African athlete to be sent for a month-long mental evaluation.
Pistorius is contesting a charge of premeditated murder after he shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead on Valentine's Day, 2013. He insists he mistook her for an intruder.
Monday's session had ended with Nel pushing for Pistorius to face a full psychiatric evaluation, after the defence team's own psychiatrist—Professor Merryll Vorster—appeared to suggest anxiety was a factor in his decision to fire his weapon.
BBC News' Andrew Harding provided Pistorius' response:
Vorster returned to the witness box on Tuesday morning, still under cross-examination from Prosecutor Nel. She attempted to clarify how a General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affected Pistorius, per EyeWitness News' Barry Bateman:
However, according to Harding and Bateman, Nel wasted little time in belittling Pistorius' fears:
Nel pressed further. Vorster had claimed on Monday that anxiety sufferers would have a "fight, not flight" attitude to a potential intruder. 24 hours later, she confessed such an individual should not be allowed a gun:
Inevitably, Vorster's time on the stand led to an official application by the prosecution to have Pistorius referred for mental observation:
Nel then drove to what is at the heart of his argument, regarding Vorster's testimony:
Defence lawyer Barry Roux, who had hoped to show Pistorius was vulnerable on the night he shot Steenkamp, argued strongly against the proposed evaluation:
The Telegraph's Aislinn Laing provided Pistorius' feeling toward the prosecution's application:
Roux became increasingly heated as he argued his case, ably provoked by Nel who remained contrastingly calm:
Court adjourned until Wednesday morning, when a decision will be made.
Updates from Monday, May 12
Oscar Pistorius' mental health became a huge point of focus on Monday as the South African athlete continued his attempt to fight a charge of premeditated murder.
Pistorius claims he mistook girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder before shooting her dead on Valentine's Day 2013, but the prosecution is seeking to prove he fired his gun after an argument with his partner.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel began Monday's session by making last week's witness, forensics expert Wollie Wolmarans, quickly repeat a series of details that undermine both his and the defence team's evidence.
The most crucial concession centred on bullet hole B in the toilet cubicle door, and mark E on the back wall. The prosecution claims that particular bullet missed Steenkamp and ricocheted off the back wall, something Wolmarans found difficult to argue, per EyeWitness News' Barry Bateman:
Key to the prosecution's case is to prove Steenkamp had time to scream between shots. BBC News' Andrew Harding felt Nel made progress on Monday:
Defence lawyer Barry Roux next called Professor Merryll Vorster—a psychiatrist—to the stand. Vorster assessed Pistorius' mental condition after the shooting.
The witness began by explaining the trauma Pistorius will have suffered by having his legs amputated at such a young age:
Vorster then spoke of how intimidated Pistorius felt by crime, as well as clarifying that all his in-court emotions have been genuine:
Prosecutor Nel was quick to respond, questioning the use of Vorster's opinion if Pistorius hasn't been ordered by the court for evaluation:
Following lunch, Nel highlighted the fact Vorster had only begun working with the defence on May 2 of this year. The BBC's Harding noted Nel querying whether there was an ulterior motive to Pistorius' anxiety:
Rebecca Davis of the Daily Maverick raised a worthy question:
Nel and Roux then became engaged in a fierce debate over whether Pistorius, by law, should face an official mental observation. Roux argued such action was only necessary if the condition limited the accused from judging what is right and wrong.
Nel, however, insisted it was necessary due to the fact Vorster was highlighting it as a factor in what led to the eventual death of Steenkamp:
Nel also used Vorster to establish that Pistorius wanted to shoot the perceived intruder, something the accused has steered clear of saying so far:
At that point, court adjourned for the day as Nel requested time to consider his options.
The defence team, lead by lawyer Barry Roux, is aiming to wrap up its case by the end of Tuesday, reported by Andrew Harding of the BBC:
Despite starting the case confidently, Pistorius' team have seen several witness struggle under the questioning of prosecutor Gerrie Nel. Prior to Friday's adjournment, Nel once again demonstrated his ability to pick apart witnesses in a controlled manner. This time, forensics expert Wollie Wolmarans struggled against Nel's quick-wits and attention to detail.
Wolmarans remained in the witness box for the entire session, attempting to explain how the bullets were fired and what position Steenkamp's body took as impact was made. His findings contradicted those found by state witness Captain Mangena, who believes bullet Hole B missed Steenkamp, giving her time to scream, per the Telegraph.
Instead, Wolmarans offered a different story and also suggested Mangena's assertion that one bullet ricocheted into Steenkamp's back—causing contusions—is not true, reported by Barry Bateman of Eyewitness News:
Nel proceeded to pick Wolmarans apart during his cross-examination. He noticed the witness' report was dated April 23, one week later than Roger Dixon, the previous forensics expert, left court. Vitally, Wolmarans suggested Dixon cannot be considered an expert, per Bateman:
Nel later asked Wolmarans why he failed to consult with the defence team's pathologist, reported by Bateman:
The coming week's events are likely to prove pivotal on the back of Friday's discussion. Roux's defence will hinge on calling further witnesses in order to create reasonable doubt toward whether Pistorius consciously meant to kill Steenkamp.
Roux will also likely attempt to do more character building before handing over to Judge Thokozile Masipa, who will have the final call on whether Pistorius knowingly shot his own girlfriend.