Oscar Pistorius trial: Live streaming coverage - Pistorius ordered to take mental health tests

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PRETORIA, South Africa (CNN) -- The judge in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial ordered the athlete to undergo psychiatric evaluation, a move that will put the trial on ice for at least a month.

Judge Thokozile Masipa based her decision on testimony by a psychiatrist who evaluated the athlete for the defense.

"A doubt has been created" that Pistorius may have a psychiatric issue that would affect the court's verdict, so she must order the testing, the judge said Wednesday.

She acknowledged that her order would mean a long delay in the trial, but said that was not the most important consideration.

"This is not about anyone's convenience, but about whether justice has been served," she said.

The prosecutor had argued in favor of psychological evaluation, while the defense argued against it.

Pistorius, 27, does not claim he was insane or mentally incapacitated when he killed his girlfriend, the model Reeva Steenkamp, in his home last year.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel Tuesday asked the judge to require the tests, arguing that if there is any chance the defendant's mental health is an issue, the court must "err on the side of caution."

Pistorius admits shooting Steenkamp but says he thought there was an intruder in his house. He has pleaded not guilty.

The athlete's defense team is trying to show that Pistorius made a genuine mistake and responded reasonably on the night he shot Steenkamp, 29, a model and law school graduate.

Pistorius' lead defense lawyer, Barry Roux, argued against new tests for his client, saying Nel's reading of the law is "unfortunate."

He mounted an impassioned case for going ahead with the trial, giving Nel an opening to begin his rebuttal with an acerbically gentle: "One thing I agree with, we shouldn't be emotional."

The court has been debating the onetime Olympic sprinter's "general anxiety disorder" this week as the trial appeared to be heading toward its end.

Psychiatrist Merryll Vorster testified Tuesday that the anxiety disorder comes out in his "excessive" concern about security, friendships lacking in depth and short-term sexual relationships.

Mistake or murder?

If the trial continues after the psychiatric evaluation, Judge Masipa must decide whether Pistorius genuinely made a mistake or whether he murdered Steenkamp intentionally.

If she does not believe the athlete thought there was an intruder, she will find him guilty of murder and sentence him to at least 15 years in prison, and possibly life.

South Africa does not have the death penalty.

If Masipa accepts that Pistorius did not know Steenkamp was the person he was shooting at, she could find him guilty of culpable homicide, a lesser charge than murder, or acquit him, according to CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps.

A verdict of culpable homicide would leave the sentence at Masipa's discretion.

Nel rejects the sprinter's defense that he mistakenly thought he was defending himself and his girlfriend from an intruder.

The state contends that Pistorius argued with Steenkamp before killing her.

The defense team is seeking to cast doubt on the state's case and needs to show only that there is a reasonable doubt that Pistorius meant to kill Steenkamp.

Argument or error?

There is no dispute that Pistorius fired four bullets through a door at Steenkamp in his home early on the morning of Valentine's Day 2013. Three hit her, causing devastating wounds. The final shot struck her head and probably killed her almost instantly, a pathologist testified in March.

The trial has seen Pistorius break down repeatedly, crying, wailing and sometimes throwing up as the court sees and hears evidence about Steenkamp's death.

Vorster said the athlete's physical distress was real.

The-CNN-Wire
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