GenevaAlmost perfect crime or miscarriage of justice?
In the Criminal Court, the prosecution asked for 14 years against the wealthy septuagenarian accused of having suffocated his wife. The defense sought acquittal.
“In this case, we came very close to the perfect crime: the murder that leads to a natural death.” But for prosecutor Anne-Laure Huber, “there are no serious doubts. The cause of death is clear and clear, it is mechanical asphyxia.” It asserts, therefore, that the defendant, a wealthy German-speaking Swiss septuagenarian, judged since monday by the Criminal Court, was in fact guilty of murder for smothering his wife with a pillow in February 2016, overnight, in his accommodation in Geneva. That is why, this Wednesday, he asked for a prison sentence of 14 years against him, “the characteristics of his guilt” bringing him closer to the “murderer”.
The case is unique. The accused maintains his innocence, and the deceased’s own family supports him. In this judgment without a civil part, only the Public Prosecutor’s Office carries the guilt thesis. “Only mechanical asphyxia explains the whole picture of the injury”, says the prosecutor, thinking that “it could have been the only sentence” of her prosecution. In particular, “lung damage, only asphyxia explains”. It is “the only clue that can be followed to the end”, a possible cause of natural death having been searched in vain by forensic experts, says the magistrate.
Without a reason
The lack of apparent motive does not shake him. “Only two people know him: one is dead, the other doesn’t want to say.” And to remember that “killers who participate in white marches with the victim’s family, it happens. Men who kill women they love, it happens. After stressing the impossibility of knowing the intimacy of a couple, she finally cites the Federal Court, which judges “that an apparent good agreement never excludes the occurrence of a dispute”.
“Contest of Chance”
The defense, which seeks acquittal, seeks to demonstrate that the defendant bears the cost of “an absolutely implausible contest of chance”. I, Marc Oederlin, insist that Geneva’s lawyers based their work on false premises, in particular the time of death. This original lack would have impacted the interpretation of rigor mortis and biased the analysis of the Centro Universitário Romano de Medicina Legal (CURML), “this intern assistant to the Public Ministry” accused of having worked only for the prosecution. “He’s in the process of proving murder.” He would have, therefore, omitted to carry out a “fundamental examination to explain a natural death”, an angiography. However, “you cannot find what you are not looking for”.
“The irrefutable element is missing”
Me Oederlin strives to demonstrate that several clues were ignored, while some would have exonerated his client if they had been better analyzed: the pillow, the alleged murder weapon, which could not miss the feather found in the victim’s bronchus, as it was proof of ‘Water; the deceased’s fingernails remained intact despite an alleged struggle of several minutes, etc. “In this file, he summarizes, there is a problem. What is missing is the irrefutable element.” And to reply to the Public Prosecutor’s Office that several elements prevent the confirmation of mechanical asphyxia – in short, if there was indeed asphyxia, the defendant is not the cause, and this remains unknown.
I Alec Reymond, his other lawyer, will then be outraged to see his client “victim of a legal-scientific spiral”. He highlights the absence of motive, the unfailing support of his family and the deceased, and his first statements to the police: “Death destroyed my happiness, statements that will be confirmed by all witnesses, without exception, in the aftermath.” And to quote at length a police report dissecting the fevered messages the spouses exchanged in the months leading up to the tragedy. The inspectors concluded thus: “It is obvious that they were very much in love with each other”. He finally addresses the judges: “If you doubt my client’s innocence for a second, then go straight to the source and read these messages. The mere fact that he has been accused is unbearable.”
Very moved, in a thread of voices, the defendant will finally thank the judges. “I think everything has been said. Please finish this story so my stepchildren and I can mourn my dear wife. The verdict will be given on Friday.