Oscar Pistorius a ‘broken’ man, psychologist says at murder sentencing hearing

Oscar Pistorius
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PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius is a “broken” man whose mental state has deteriorated over the last two years and he should be hospitalized and not jailed, a clinical psychologist testified for his defense Monday on the opening day of the former track star’s sentencing hearing for murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Prosecutors immediately challenged that opinion of Pistorius in their cross-examination, charging that the double-amputee Olympic athlete confronted a police witness at the courthouse on an earlier occasion.

Pistorius is currently under house arrest after serving one year of a five-year sentence after being found guilty in 2014 of manslaughter for killing Steenkamp in 2103. But the manslaughter conviction was overturned last year by South Africa’s Supreme Court which convicted Pistorius of the more serious charge of murder, which carries longer jail sentences.

Pistorius’ lawyers are arguing for some leniency from a judge when she decides his sentence. South Africa has a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison for murder, although a judge can reduce that in some circumstances. The sentencing hearing is scheduled to run through Friday this week.

Judge Thokozile Masipa, who initially acquitted Pistorius of murder at his trial, will decide his new sentence.

Called by Pistorius’ defense lawyers, clinical psychologist Prof. Jonathan Scholtz said Pistorius was “quite ill” and struggled with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Scholtz evaluated Pistorius in 2014, during his murder trial, and again in May this year.

“Mr. Pistorius’ condition has worsened since 2014,” Scholtz testified. He said Pistorius was now “despondent and lethargic, disinvested, and leaves his future in the hands of God.”

The clinical psychologist said he did not think Pistorius would be able to testify at the sentencing hearings because of his psychological problems.

Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel pounced on that at the start of his cross-examination of Scholtz, pointing out that Pistorius had recently given a TV interview, and yet claimed to be unable to testify in court.

Prosecutors had depicted Pistorius, one of the world’s most celebrated athletes at his height, as an arrogant figure with a sense of entitlement and a love of guns. On Monday, Nel subjected Scholtz to sharp questioning, getting him to acknowledge that someone suffering from the same stress disorder as Pistorius could become irritated and agitated.

Nel referred to an incident involving Pistorius and a police witness, apparently trying to show that Pistorius was not a changed, remorseful man and could still be a potential danger to others.

Nel quoted Pistorius as saying to the police officer: “Please give us space and privacy. You didn’t do your job in any case.”

The prosecutor said the defense team apologized for the spat; Pistorius’ defense lawyer did not immediately comment on the allegation.

Dressed in a dark suit, Pistorius sat calmly on a bench during the testimony, mostly with his head down. During an adjournment before Nel began his cross-examination of Scholtz, Pistorius spoke briefly to defense lawyer Barry Roux and made a call on a cellphone.

The gallery was packed with relatives, journalists and other onlookers. Police officers lined the wood-paneled walls of the courtroom.

Barry and June Steenkamp, the parents of the model Pistorius killed by shooting multiple times through a toilet door in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day 2013, were also present in court.

In his testimony, the psychologist had described Pistorius as despondent and forgetful, and said further imprisonment for the convicted murderer would not be “psychologically or socially constructive.”

Instead, Scholtz recommended that Pistorius be treated in a hospital, and then use his skills and past experience in charity to give back to society by helping disadvantaged and disabled people, particularly youths. He noted that Pistorius had sold his firearms, became jumpy even at the sound of gunfire on television, and was unlikely to resort to violence again.

He also said Pistorius was subjected to several “traumatic and humiliating experiences” during the year he spent in prison, including being forced to shower while sitting on the concrete floor because of his disability. Pistorius spent 18 hours a day in solitary confinement while in prison, Scholtz said, and was treated “like an animal in a cage.”

Prosecutor Nel challenged Scholtz on some of those claims surrounding Pistorius’ imprisonment. For example, Scholtz said Pistorius told him that he had heard an inmate being raped by another, and then seen the body of the alleged victim after he had hanged himself. Nel disputed the assertion.

Nel also said Pistorius was not confined to his cell for 18 hours a day, but rather was allowed to walk around a wing of the prison he shared with only one other inmate.

“He complained about everything,” Nel said of Pistorius’ time in prison.

MORE: Pistorius timeline since London Olympics

2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France vs. Mali Group B
4 a.m. Australia vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada vs. Japan Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final

Annemiek van Vleuten, with broken elbow, becomes oldest to win world road race title

Annemiek van Vleuten
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WOLLONGONG, Australia — Annemiek van Vleuten surprised herself and the rest of cycling by recording the finest win of her career on Saturday at the world road championships.

Overcoming an elbow fracture sustained three days earlier, the Dutch great won her second world road race title with an attack in the last 600 meters that caught the other eight leaders napping.

The 39-year-old rider and her Dutch teammates were in disbelief at the finish after she put the exclamation mark on a 164.3-kilometer event. She became the oldest man or woman to win a world championships road race, according to Gracenote.

The 2019 World champion and reigning Olympic and world time trial winner claimed cycling’s triple crown this year when she landed the Italian, French and Spanish tours.

But for Van Vleuten, who will retire at the end of next season, what she did on Saturday was extra special.

“Maybe this is my best victory . . . I am still speechless, I still can’t believe it,” she said. “It took me some time to realize I’d really pulled it off because I’m waiting for the moment that they tell me there was someone in front or it was a joke. I had the feeling it cannot be true.”

She crashed in Wednesday’s mixed team relay at the worlds and sustained the fracture, describing the pain during Saturday’s race as “hell.”

The win also continues the domination of the Dutch women, who have finished on the road race podium at all but three of the last 20 worlds.

Earlier Saturday, Britain’s Zoe Backstedt celebrated her 18th birthday by turning the junior road event into a one-woman race.

In wet and cold conditions, Backstedt cycled away from the peloton with a solo attack at 10 kms and stayed clear for the remaining 57 kms to win by more than two minutes. Eglantine Rayer of France was second ahead of Dutch rider Nienke Vinke.

Backstedt retained her junior road race title and also is a world champion on the track and in cyclocross.

The championships end Sunday with the men’s road race.

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