UK & World News
Pistorius' Mental Health At Heart Of Trial
In a hasty, whispered exchange with his lawyer, Oscar Pistorius was given the news of the judge's ruling just moments before she delivered it in court.
His expression - grim resignation - said it all: the defence had lost their legal fight to prevent the South African athlete being ordered to undergo a full evaluation of his mental health.
Judge Thokozile Masipa said she had a duty to refer the athlete for tests by a panel of government psychiatrists after one of the defence's own witnesses raised the issue of his mental condition.
From the defence's perspective, it was an unintended and undesirable consequence of their decision to call psychiatrist Merryl Vorster to the witness box.
She had told the court the athlete suffered from "Generalised Anxiety Disorder", a condition that might have influenced his actions on the night he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
The prosecution leapt on the diagnosis and immediately demanded the full, independent evaluation, warning that without it any conviction could be vulnerable to appeal.
The judge agreed and, suddenly, the 10-week long murder trial that was inching to a conclusion was adjourned.
The details of process will be determined when the court reconvenes on Tuesday.
But it is expected - likely much to the athlete's relief - that he will be examined as an "out-patient" rather than admitted to a psychiatric facility for observation.
The panel of assessors will be made up of at least three psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.
The usual period of observation is 30 days and it could then take a similar amount of time for the report to be compiled.
The key, in terms of the case, is whether the psychiatrists diagnose any disorder which might indicate "diminished capacity".
In layman's terms - that the athlete's mental problems meant he could not be held responsible for the shooting.
That seems unlikely, but even a lesser "condition" might be a factor in the case and the court cannot proceed until the matter is settled so the trial may be delayed for months.
What has baffled many watching the trial - criminal lawyers among them - is why this was not all dealt with at the beginning of the case if it was a consideration.
And why Pistorius' own lawyers did not realise the implications of the evidence their own psychiatrist would give?
Some argue, and this is an allegation that's been raised by the prosecution, that the athlete's legal team is so concerned by how the case is going that the net has been cast wide for any new defence - including his mental state.
Alternatively, they had hoped to introduce the "anxiety disorder" not as a determining factor in the case but simply as context for the events of the shooting on Valentine's Day last year.
Either way, the athlete's mental health is now right at the heart of the trial and only verdict that matters, at least for now, is that of the psychiatrists.