Oscar Pistorius trial: IMPORTANT UPDATE BELOW

May 12, 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014

Good morning:

Trial resumed with Gerrie Nel cross examining Thomas Wolmarans, the defense ballistic expert. Also, a psychiatrist is on the stand today. Please join us to watch and comment.

Session 1

Session 2

UPDATE:

Fascinating development today. After the conclusion of Thomas Wolmarans’s testimony, the defense shifted from not guilty to not guilty due to diminished capacity.

In fairness to defense counsel, Barry Roux, however, the shift was not entirely unexpected because he did say at the beginning of the trial that the defense would show that Pistorius’s feelings of “vulnerability” and his disability contributed to him shooting Steenkamp.

The defense called Dr. Merryll Vorster, a forensic psychiatrist who teaches at Wittwatersrand University.

She testified that she was requested by the defense to evaluate Pistorius earlier this month long after he had concluded his testimony. She said Pistorius suffers from general anxiety disorder (GAD) and, although he can tell the difference between right and wrong, he would be a danger to society if he had a gun. Because of his heightened fear of crime, due to his disability and the influence of his mother who slept with a gun under her pillow, he would tend to perceive threats where others would not and react aggressively rather than retreat (fight rather than flight).

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said he would submit a request to refer Pistorius for a 30 day evaluation by its own experts to determine if they agree with Dr. Vorster’s diagnosis.

Barry Roux argues that a 30 day referral for observation isn’t necessary because he isn’t claiming that Pistorius was delusional (i.e., insane) and could not distinguish between right and wrong. He says Pistorius’s anxiety disorder is relevant to show his mental state and explain why he acted as he did.

Diminished capacity is a defense that admits the acts that constitute the offense (i.e., actus reus), but denies the existence of the requisite mental state (i.e., mens rea) due to a diminished mental ability to form that mental state. It is not a claim of insanity that, if true, would generally require extended hospitalization in a secure facility until the person is deemed safe to be released into the community.

Stunning development that likely resulted from Nel’s destruction of the defense case.

Roux contacted Dr. Vorster a little over a week ago and asked her to evaluate Pistorius.

Many US courts would prohibit switching to diminished capacity after the trial started. let alone in the defense case.

Usually, defense has to file a written notice of intent to claim insanity or diminished capacity no later than six weeks before trial and the prosecution can then have its experts evaluate the client.

I am not familiar with the law in SA, but I imagine that Nel can seek an evaluation.

His theory is that Pistorius killed her after an argument and made up the story about an intruder. He trapped Pistorius in at least two conflicting versions of the incident and the gastric contents in Steenkamp’s stomach blew up his story that they ate dinner at 7 pm and went to bed at 10 pm.

However, since he has the burden of proof, he may seek to have his experts evaluate Pistorius’s mental state and blow-up Dr. Vorster’s evaluation.

Gerrie Nel asked for an early adjournment to prepare the rest of his cross examination of Dr. Vorster.

Court is in recess until tomorrow at 0930.

Crane and I are working hard for you. Her article on saliva testing leading to a conclusive presumption of DUI guilt for anyone stopped by the police while driving a motor vehicle, regardless if they are impaired, is muckracking at its best and going viral. I am giving you the straight skinny on the Pistorius trial.

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Thank you,

Fred


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