Oscar Pistorius is a “broken man” whose mental state has deteriorated and he should be hospitalised and not jailed, a psychologist yesterday testified at the opening day of his sentencing hearing for murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
But prosecutors challenged the expert’s opinion, outlining how the double-amputee Olympic athlete confronted a police witness outside the courtroom in an aggressive way.
His condition has worsened since 2014. He is despondent and lethargic, dis-invested, and leaves his future in the hands of GodProfessor Jonathan Scholtz
Called by Pistorius’ defence lawyers, clinical psychologist Professor Jonathan Scholtz said Pistorius was “quite ill” and struggled with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Scholtz evaluated Pistorius in 2014 during his murder trial, and again in May this year. “Mr Pistorius’ condition has worsened since 2014,” Scholtz testified.
He said Pistorius, 29, was now “despondent and lethargic, dis-invested, and leaves his future in the hands of God.”
The clinical psychologist said he did not think Pistorius would be able to testify at the sentencing hearings.
Pistorius’ lawyers are arguing for leniency from a judge when she decides his sentence. South Africa has a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison for murder, although a judge can reduce that in some circumstances.
Pistorius was initially sentenced to five years in prison – and served one year before being moved to house arrest – after being found guilty in 2014 of manslaughter for Steenkamp’s 2013 killing.
That ruling was overturned by South Africa’s Supreme Court last year, and Pistorius was convicted of murder.
Judge Thokozile Masipa, the judge who initially acquitted Pistorius of murder at his trial, is presiding over the sentencing hearings and will decide his new sentence.
Prosecutors had depicted Pistorius as an arrogant figure with a sense of entitlement and a love of guns. Yesterday, chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel subjected Mr Scholtz to sharp questioning, getting him to acknowledge that someone suffering from the same stress disorder as Pistorius could become irritated and agitated.
Nel referred to the incident involving Pistorius and the police witness outside the courtroom, apparently trying to show Pistorius was not a changed man and could still be a danger to others.
Pistorius sat calmly on a bench during the testimony, mostly with his head down.
Barry and June Steenkamp, the parents of the 27-year-old model Pistorius killed by shooting multiple times through a toilet door in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day 2013, were also in court. In his testimony, the psychologist had described Pistorius as despondent and forgetful, and said further imprisonment for the convicted murderer would not be “psychologically or socially constructive”.
Instead, Mr Scholtz recommended Pistorius use his skills and experience to give back to society by helping disadvantaged and disabled people.
He noted that Pistorius had sold his firearms, became jumpy even at the sound of gunfire on television, and was unlikely to resort to violence again.
He also said Pistorius was subjected to several “traumatic and humiliating experiences” during the year he spent in prison, including being forced to shower while sitting on the floor because of his disability.
Pistorius spent 18 hours a day in solitary confinement, Mr Scholtz said, and was treated “like an animal in a cage”.