The 29-year-old Paralympic gold medallist, known as ‘Blade Runner’ for the carbon-fibre prosthetics he wore when racing, faces a minimum 15-year jail term after his manslaughter conviction for the 2013 killing was upgraded on appeal.
The case has prompted a fierce debate in a country beset by high levels of violent crime against women. Some rights groups have said the white athlete has received preferential treatment.
Jonathan Scholtz, a psychologist called by Pistorius’s lawyer Barry Roux, told the sentencing hearing that the athlete, who attended in a dark suit and at times sat with his head in his hands, was on medication for depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
“One would describe him as broken. In my opinion his current condition warrants hospitalisation,” said Mr Scholtz, noting that Pistorius was not in the right frame of mind to testify.
“Since 2013, he becomes traumatised when he hears the sound of gunfire,” Mr Scholtz said. “He never wants to touch a firearm again.”
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel questioned Mr Scholtz’s assertion that Pistorius was not fit to testify, saying he had given a TV interview. The hour-long interview with Britain’s ITV is due to air on June 24.
Mr Nel told the court Pistorius had shown no remorse for the murder, and only “feels sorry for himself”.
Pistorius had had temper tantrums in jail and had once banged a table when he got upset with a nurse, Mr Nel said, asking Mr Scholtz why he ignored Pistorius’s actions.
Mr Scholtz said Pistorius may have acted violently as he was adapting to prison and affected by medication.
“Why would you select only positive views for your report. I find that in your report you are biased towards the accused,” Mr Nel said, shortly before the court adjourned for the day.
Mr Roux declined to comment on the day’s proceedings, as did Steenkamp’s family.
Mr Scholtz said Pistorius had been assaulted once in jail but Mr Nel rejected this, saying the complaint register in which Pistorius often raised issues had no report of such an incident.
Mr Nel also disputed a claim by the psychologist that Pistorius was traumatised after he saw a prisoner who had hanged himself, saying it was unlikely that he could have seen the victim.
Luvuyo Mfaku, a spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, told Reuters its position was “to argue for the prescribed sentence to be imposed, that is 15 years.”
A final decision on sentencing is expected to be delivered this week.