Updated 16 July 2014

Cherry-picking reports and that reconstructed video

CyberShrink says: Derman dribbles, Roux cherry-picks from the strangely unavailable report and a leaked re-construction video of what happened on that night and that strongly contradicts the psychologists' report.

There’s an old saying: “Man who wants to wear two hats at the same time, needs very big head.”

That’s part of Dr. Derman’s problem. He’s trying to testify as a neutral expert witness, despite not having any recognisable expertise in the area he’s talking about. (He’s surely an expert in Sports Medicine, but that is not what his evidence is based on ).

And he’s also speaking as a friendly character witness, at the wrong stage of the trial for that.

Read: The Oscar trial witnesses are awful, pompous and condescending 

People really must not be too easily impressed by the title “Professor” and assume that their opinions must be wise and credible whatever they’re talking about. In this country, people come to be called “Professor” for various reasons.

Some appointments are mainly political, created so as to get someone to fill a needed but unpopular post, with the title as a cheaper sweetener than offering a higher salary.

And some are based on impressive academic and research credentials. Even the opinions of a Professor should be scrutinised and checked.

His special relationship with Oscar has been obvious. Notice how he squirmed when having to admit that his theory of an unavoidable fight response supports the idea that Oscar carried the gun in order to shoot someone.

He tried to avoid the words, preferring : “to nullify the threat” Yes, of course, anyone would run round with a large gun, thinking to themselves : “I’ll just nullify the threat”.

Read: Sportsmen who have been accused of murder

Problems with the Derman theorie

The main problem with Derman’s evidence is that it lies outside his credentialed expertise in the health issues of athletes, and strays far into psychiatry, psychology and neurology.

It’s a bit less than a Reader’s Digest version, greatly over-simplifying matters, building a large and unstable structure based on misunderstanding and stretching a couple of undergraduate concepts well beyond breaking point.

The idea of Fight, Flight or Freeze has never been elevated, by true experts in the field, into the sort of major and concrete Law of Nature he portrays. He’s ignored the option of Freezing and waiting to see what happens next, which would have been an excellent choice for Oscar.

He stated baldly that it was impossible for Oscar to have fled the scene, though not only could he have rapidly put on his legs (as shown in the newly available video ) and fled briskly, but he could have done so a bit more slowly even without prostheses, as the video also demonstrates.

And by his own account he instead travelled considerable distances to and from the bathroom, anyway.

It’s not clear, but Derman seems to imply that flight being “impossible”, fighting was somehow compulsory, and this is just not so. There’s been peculiar discussion of “Startles”, as though they were concrete and discrete objects (I’m just popping out to the shops for a packet of Startles).

Read: Stress, darkness and fear and measuring the startle response

When someone is unexpectedly surprised by a sudden noise or movement, they may show what is sometimes called a “startle response” which may include a number of reactions reflecting rapid arousal.

This has nothing to do with fight or flight, and once you've been startled and become aroused and ready to deal with whatever’s happening, one does not continue to experience a series of 'startles'. Arousal can have varying effects.

Read: Men respond more aggressively to stress than women
It may help deal with an emergency by making us more prepared to become active in whatever way is demanded by the situation, or, if we are already nervous and anxious, it could make us excessively aroused, and more liable to dither and error. But never to the extent of excusing the use of excessive violence or killing someone.

With his talk of the Amygdala, he also seems to be teetering on the brink of a currently fashionable idea of “Amygdala Hijack “ which has no proper scientific support but is beloved by defence lawyers.

If courts take this seriously, it could be claimed by anyone, to escape scot-free from the consequences of any crime. This would be extremely dangerous.

I’m still bothered by Derman’s strange story of how he’s often seen Oscar react badly to fireworks at athletic events and award ceremonies, cowering and covering his ears with his hands.

This would be so odd for someone who has never suffered serious trauma involving very loud noises, and who chooses making big bangs with big guns as his favoured hobby and way of relaxing when not feeling sleepy.

Read: Loud noise affects men more

But surely he would also respond in this very noticeable and strange way at the start of any race when they fired the Starter’s Pistol? Wouldn’t this have been noticed?

With huge audiences, reporters and cameras watching, why has nobody seen this previously? Fireworks are not always present, but starting pistols, loud roars from the crowd, and surprisingly loud bangs from blaring music, abound.

I have studied online videos of his races and medal ceremonies, and can see no trace of such a response by Oscar. Can Mr Nel please ask for the court to be shown pictures, video and other witnesses to confirm this?

Some sensationalised reporting and cherry picking

There’s been a great deal of unbalanced and ill-informed reporting of the trial, showing no sense of proportion at all. Pretoria was again blanketed with newspaper posters insisting that Oscar was a suicide risk.

In fact, this is a highly questionable claim, and taken way out of context. His own psychiatrist, Dr Vorster made no such claim; and a panel of three highly expert psychiatrist after 30 days observation definitely did not think so.

Read: Has Oscar lost the plot?

The idea was only mentioned in court when Roux, unfairly cherry-picking, read out little bits of the huge report from a psychologist added unnecessarily to the observation panel, who also apparently discovered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which nobody else saw.

As the defence also persuaded the court to hide the rest of that report from the public, other than the scraps Roux chose, it’s impossible to accept any of those aberrant findings unless and until the full report is revealed in court and the psychologist is properly and expertly cross-examined about it.

Read: Who is nuts - Oscar or his defence?

If, as reported late Sunday night, the court has further allowed the defence to release to a newspaper the psychological report after editing it to their satisfaction, this is deeply peculiar.

Any report ordered and commissioned by the court does NOT belong to the defence, and they should have no special rights over it; indeed it should be open to public scrutiny.

Something very odd is going on here.

The video that contradicts the experts.

A video has emerged from Australia, with at least a trailer available at other international sites (though some have blocked it from viewing from South Africa) which shows Oscar moving freely on his stumps, apparently re-enacting what happened on that night, and even struggling to remove a motionless woman from a small bathroom.

Watch: Video of double amputee walking and running on stumps

He looks oddly unemotional, but moves far more rapidly and stably than one might expect, even on a varying surface.

This does not at all match the evidence of his friend Dr Versveld about how unstable he was without prosthetics, nor Derman’s insistence that it would have been impossible for him to have fled rather than attacked.

Apparently filmed for an American company that makes animations re-enacting crime scenes for use in court, the video so strikingly contradicts the testimony of the two doctors, that the court could very justifiably insist on it being shown and discussed in court.

The defence have chosen so far not to show this to the court. Wouldn't it be odd if a legal team led experts to testify, suggesting that their client could not effectively move in certain ways, when they might have had in their possession a video proving that he could?

Read more:

Derman makes disable people seem retarded and Oscar should not involve himself in his defence
Oscar's shrink has shrunk - comments on Merryl Vorster
Oscar is sane, they say
Oscar's defence continues to implode

This article is from one of our contributors and the views expressed in it do not necessarily represent those of Health24 and it's staff

Professor MA Simpson is Health24's CyberShrink. A South African psychiatrist, he qualified in medicine and in psychiatry in Britain. He has been a senior academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries. Read more of his columns.




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