Updated 02 July 2014

Oscar returns – with a glut of witnesses

Oscar's first day back in court started off with perfunctory details of his psychological report, and some very unhelpful witnesses, according to CyberShrink.

The long-awaited report of Oscar's 30-day observation should have been really significant, yet, it was almost glossed over . . . It has also not yet been made available to the public.

Generalised anxiety disorder
We expected the report to comment on Dr Merryl Vorster's famous diagnosis of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and hopefully ridicule her notion that Oscar had GAD since the age of one – obviously an impossible diagnosis to make. 

I absolutely agree with Dr Sean Kaliski (who was also involved in the Dewani case) – quoted in the media as saying that GAD has never been found to have caused diminished capacity in a serious criminal trial. 
The panel confirmed that at the time Pistorius had no psychiatric disorder that interfered with his ability to tell right from wrong, or to behave in accordance with that understanding. Both the state and the defence agreed with those conclusions, but both reserved the right to search through the reports for anything that might help or hinder their cases.  

Read: Who's nuts, Oscar or his defence?

The psychiatric report seemed to be short and succinct, while that of the psychologist appeared long-winded, clearly dealing with issues beyond the group's brief. 

Some journalists expressed weirdly naive expectations. One, for instance, petulantly wondered why Oscar's face didn't reflect the ordeal of his psychiatric evaluation. Since when do hospital visits cause visible stigmata?

Dr Versveld's testimony
How could Dr Versveld testify how vulnerable Oscar would be in a dangerous situation, when he never assessed him in a dangerous situation? The X-rays and demonstration were clearly intended to elicit sympathy, but weren’t relevant to the case.

It is interesting that nobody asked Dr Versveld if he had ever noticed signs that Oscar was suffering from GAD, as Dr Vorster so confidently asserted. Sure, he’s no expert in psychiatry, but surely he would have noticed any such signs.   

Versveld emphasized the paralympian’s vulnerability – which surely would have led to him to flee the room, as he could easily have done, rather than rushing towards the danger?  

Read: Just how far away can we hear someone scream?

Nel vs. Roux
As Nel brilliantly demonstrated in his cross-examination, Oscar managed to balance and run remarkably well on the fateful night. He ran without falling or stumbling – which implies he was far more in control than he claims.   

Versveld was also challenged about his statement that Oscar could not defend himself without a weapon – which sounded like a justification of the gun – while ignoring the easy option of fleeing.
Then Roux raised a long thin red herring.  He demanded that the court compel Nel to hand over an extension cord, so its length could be measured. Nobody had considered it relevant evidence at the time. To demand it now, over a year after they had themselves controlled the house and its contents, is peculiar, and surely tactical. It was hard to see why the judge allowed herself to get so bothered about this.

Ivan Lin put everyone to sleep
Mr Lin’s evidence was massively boring, repetitive, turgid and unhelpful: no wonder he practically lulled everyone to sleep.
If you accept what Mr Lin seemed to be saying from the start (and I do) about the inescapable uncertainty of what people can hear, and the impossibility of reproducing the highly relevant characteristics of factors on the specific night, then none of the rest of what he said was necessary or useful.
He has no idea how loudly Oscar or Reeva screamed, or the actual circumstances on that night, or how good the hearing of the various witnesses was. Without that, all of his theories and guesses were entirely pointless. He doubted whether people could “recognise emotions” at particular distances: what does he mean by that? What emotions? And, is he really certain nobody could distinguish between blood-curdling screams and merry laughter?

Remember how we were promised that we’d be shown that Oscar “screams like a woman”, but this has never happened? We heard that elaborate tests were done on site, but none of those results were revealed.  Did they not demonstrate what was hoped for?

So here we go again . . . I notice that the Klingon translator is back – maybe she was fired from her latest Star Trek role.

Read more:
Pistorius has no mental defects
Why was Oscar sent for 30-days observation?

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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