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Oscar Pistorius Trial Judge to Rule on Psychiatric Evaluation

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The judge in Oscar Pistorius's murder trial will decide Wednesday whether the double-amputee runner should be placed under psychiatric evaluation after a defense witness testified that he had an anxiety disorder.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked Tuesday that the trial be adjourned for a study of Pistorius' mental health following testimony by a psychiatrist who said the Olympian's anxiety could have shaped the way he responded to perceived threats.

Nel claimed that Merryll Vorster's evidence suggested lawyers were preparing a possible defense based on a mental condition. He asked the judge to have Pistorius receive an independent assessment at a state hospital.

Defense lawyer Barry Roux objected to request, calling it as “a ruse” and pointing out that other witnesses had yet to be called to give evidence on the subject.

After hearing Vorster give evidence for a second day on Tuesday, Judge Thokozile Masipa adjourned the trial and said she would rule on Nel's request the following morning.

Pistorius claims he killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp by mistake last year, fearing that there was an intruder in his home when he shot through a closed toilet door early on Feb. 14, 2013. The prosecution says he killed her intentionally after an argument.

Vorster on Tuesday testified that she believed Pistorius suffered from “general anxiety disorder” – a condition she said affects between one and six percent of adults.

She said the anxiety did not prevent Pistorius from achieving sporting success, but noted that Pistorius's sexual relationships appeared to be quite short.

"He did function socially, but not optimally," she said.

Cross-examining Vorster, Nel asked why none of Pistorius’ family or friends knew the athlete suffered from the problem. Vorster replied that Pistorius himself was unaware he had anxiety disorder before he shot Steenkamp.

She said Pistorius’s fear of crime – and the athlete’s plans to move to Johannesburg to find a more secure house – was higher than “the average South African.”

The trial continues.

-Alastair Jamieson

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