When the verdict falls, the accused looks petrified. The burly man does not show any emotion. Life imprisonment for two murders and a particular degree of guilt - this is the decision of the district court in Kaiserslautern, which considers it proven that the passionate hunter shot two police officers in the head during a vehicle check. "He killed both officers like he usually kills his prey," said presiding judge Raphael Mall.
With the verdict, there is a moment of excitement in the audience area. Like air from a balloon, the tension escapes briefly from the almost motionless rows. A man clears his throat behind the corona protective mask, another breathes a sigh of relief. Out of relief?
"No," says a former colleague of the two victims. He was one of the first at the scene of the crime. "Anyone who has seen this will not be able to continue living like this for the time being after the verdict." The images in your head are still too powerful for relief on this day.
The verdict marks the end of a five-month trial over a crime that has caused outrage across the country. At the end of January, near Kusel in the Palatinate, a 24-year-old police officer and a police inspector who was 5 years older were on patrol shortly after 4 a.m. It's a freezing night, sleet is falling.
A parked van appears suspicious to the police, they discover poached meat in the hold, more than 20 deer and deer. A few minutes later, the two officers are dead. The woman dies from shots from a shotgun, the man is hit by shots from a hunting rifle. According to the district court, the same man pulled the trigger both times: the main accused.
face "completely shredded"
Judge Mall finds drastic words for the deed. "The defendant proceeded with both of his victims as before on his hunts." The police officer shot the 39-year-old in the head with a shotgun - "according to his motto, 'Headshot, as always'." The young woman's face was "completely shredded".
The main accused "really chased" the police officer and shot him with a hunting rifle, incapacitating him. "Then he approached his prey and gave the police officer one final catch shot in the head. Again, 'Headshot, as always,'" Mall said. "Here, however, it was not wild animals that were hunted, but people. The last shot is not called a coup de grâce, but an execution."
Addressing the relatives, the judge says in a "personal final word" that he hopes that the verdict can help them to cope with their grief. "You too got a life sentence."
The lawyer for the family of the policeman who was killed described the verdict as "just and understandable". It will "certainly help both families to close the matter as much as possible," says Kai-Daniel Weil. The wounds are far from healed. "It will be the beginning of a long process of mourning."
"Particular Severity of Guilt"
So now life imprisonment - and a "particular severity of guilt": what does that actually mean? "The term describes a significant increase in guilt," says attorney Martin Rubbert, a member of the Criminal Law Committee of the German Lawyers' Association of the German Press Agency. "Something has to stand out clearly."
"For life" used to mean just that: imprisonment until death. However, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that every convicted person should have a chance of being released. "Today, the remainder of a life sentence can be suspended after 15 years," says Rubbert. However, if the court determines that the guilt is "particularly serious", this is ruled out. Mall says that usually means 20 to 25 years in prison. The verdict is not yet legally binding.
The seats in the district court were also fully occupied on the last day of the trial. Among them are a number of viewers who have been there regularly in recent months. "It was very interesting to experience such a process from start to finish," says Tanja Fay. She was so taken with the case that she and her husband came from Saarbrücken every time except for three appointments. "Some here even took vacation days to be there."
Poacher accomplice goes unpunished
The main suspect was traveling with an accomplice that fateful night. According to the court, the 33-year-old was guilty of complicity in poaching. Punishment should be avoided, however, because the man's testimony contributed to the clarification, it is said. The men were arrested shortly after the crime in neighboring Saarland. The suspect's ID and driver's license were found at the scene.
After the crime, the question quickly arose of how such violence against a police patrol could be prevented. Security circles said officers would not wear helmets and submachine guns during vehicle inspections in the future - the "standard equipment" of pistol, handcuffs, pepper spray and baton would suffice. The crime at Kusel will certainly be part of the police training curriculum. The two victims wore body armor and were armed.