Day 1 of the Oscar Pistorius sentencing has come to a close and the court heard that the double-amputee Olympic runner is suffering “severe depression” and is a “broken man”, according to clinical psychologist Dr. Jonathan Scholtz.
Pistorius, 29, murdered his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February of 2013 but originally the conviction was for manslaughter. Pistorius is currently living under house arrest after initially serving one year of a five-year prison sentence for manslaughter.
Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp after firing four times through a locked toilet door but claimed he believed he was shooting at an intruder.
The manslaughter conviction was overturned in 2015 by South Africa’s Supreme Court, and Pistorius is now convicted of murder.
The new Pistorius sentencing is determining how long the former athlete should now serve for the more serious conviction of murder, the worst crime under South African law.
Dr. Scholtz, called by Pistorius’ defense, testified on Monday that Oscar Pistorius is a “broken man” whose mental state has deteriorated. The psychologist is calling for Pistorius to be hospitalized and not jailed.
“[Pistorius is] despondent and lethargic, dis-invested, and leaves his future in the hands of God,” Dr. Scholtz said.
Dr. Scholtz went on tell Pretoria’s High court that Pistorius has sold all his guns and is “quite ill” after being subjected to several “traumatic and humiliating experiences” in prison. Pistorius was reportedly made to shower sitting down on a cold concrete floor because of his disability, and was treated “like an animal in a cage.”
Dr. Scholtz also said that Pistorius heard one inmate being raped by another, and also saw the body of a person who hung himself in prison.
Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel has challenged these claims and said that Pistorius “complained about everything” and was not confined to his cell for 18 hours a day like he claimed to be.
Nel also quoted Pistorius as saying to police officers, “Please give us space and privacy. You didn’t do your job in any case.”
Pistorius has now admitted that he shot Reeva Steenkamp and Nel brought this up on the first day of sentencing that was focused on the former Olympian’s mental health. He asked Dr. Scholtz the following.
“Did Mr Pistorius indicate to you that he intentionally shot at the door knowing there was a person in the bathroom?”
Dr. Scholtz responded with “yes…”
The new Pistorius trial is before the same judge, Judge Thokozile Masipa, who initially acquitted Pistorius of murder and Pistorius’ lawyers are arguing for leniency. South Africa has a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison for murder, but a judge can reduce this in some circumstances.
The first day of the trial was packed to the brim with family members, journalists, and the curious public filling out the courtroom. It is expected to go through to Friday.
Barry and June Steenkamp, the parents of the model Pistorius killed, were also present. Nel said June Steenkamp had forgiven Pistorius, but “for her sake, not for his sake” and that Pistorius only regretted the effect killing Reeva Steenkamp had had on his own life.
Pistorius dressed in a dark pinstripe suit and sat quietly throughout the first day of testimony, with his head down; he sometimes covered his face with his hands. His psychologist said he won’t be fit to stand trial.
“I don’t think he is able to be a witness in this trial, his condition is severe,” Dr. Scholtz said.
“Since the offence he has developed a serious psychiatric condition which has become worse over the past two years.”
The Pistorius sentencing will resume on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. local time (7:30 a.m. GMT), where the court can expect to hear from the second witness for the defense.
Facts about Oscar Pistorius:
Born: November 22, 1986
From: Pretoria, South Africa
Also known as: The Blade Runner
Motto: “You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have”
Amputation: Both legs were amputated as a baby due to a rare condition.
Life: Became a Paralympic sprinter and was the first double leg amputee to compete in the Olympics, at the 2012 Games
Imprisonment: Shot dead Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013. Found guilty of culpable homicide for mistaking her for an intruder – sentenced to five years’ imprisonment
Future: Released after serving 363 days of his sentence, later found guilty of murder in South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeals.
[Photo by Phil Magakoe/AP]