The judge in the murder case involving Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius said Wednesday the South African star athlete must undergo a month-long psychiatric evaluation, temporarily putting the trial to a halt.
This is after chief Prosecutor Gerrie Nel appealed to Judge Thokozile Masipa for a "state-sponsored examination" to see if the accused was indeed mentally unsound and how it could have affected him on that fateful Valentine's Day, when he incessantly shot Reeva Steenkamp through a bathroom door in their home last year, leaving his girlfriend bathing in her own blood.
Masipa added that when the testimony of a psychiatrist the defense put in court Tuesday came up, she could not ignore that piece of evidence.
The psychiatrist named Merryll Vorster said Pistorius has a record of generalized anxiety disorder since he was a baby, and it partly worsened because of what happened to his lower legs, which were amputated because of a genetic defect. Vorster also revealed that Pistorius was "hyper-vigilant" and is quite paranoid of his surroundings.
"The accused may not have raised the issue that he was not criminally responsible at the time of the incident in so many words, but evidence raised on his behalf cannot be ignored," Masipa reacted to the Vorster's statement.
Prior to the startling testimony, no mention of Pistorius' mental health has been raised.
The requested psychiatric evaluation could have stalled the trial by more or less 30 days but Masipa said things should be carefully considered in cases such as this one.
"This is not about anyone's convenience, but about whether justice has been served," the ruling judge said.
The 27-year-old tracker is yet to learn the place and the date and time of his tests.
Throughout the trial, Pistorius has been consistent in stating that he did not intentionally kill his girlfriend and that he mistook her as an intruder during the early hours of the February 14. The prosecution insists, however, that he killed her after a heated argument.
Should the tests confirm that Pistorius is suffering from anxiety disorder, he could be found not guilty due to a mental illness that prompted the murder of model Steenkamp and he would be forced to enter a mental health institution even if it is against his will until he is found to be mentally stable. However, if they find the tests contrary to what the psychiatrist claims, it could turn on to him, proving him guilty as charged.