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

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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

2020 French Open women’s singles draw, results

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If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.

Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.

Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.

If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.

Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.

The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.

Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.

The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

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2020 French Open men’s singles draw, results

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Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.

Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.

Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.

Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.

The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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