A less than enlightening day
After the challenge by the Wohlleben defense against the court had been rejected as unfounded, the trial continued today. However, there was not much to do, and the trial did not pick up speed at this point shortly before the end of the taking of evidence.
The court dealt once more with challenge for bias brought against expert witness Prof. Bauer by the Yozgat family (see the report of 24 May 2017). Bauer had sent a lengthy response to the court in which he explained why he did not feel biased – however, this response rather furthered the impression that he is indeed biased. Thus the federal prosecution also stated its opinion that the challenge was well-founded.
The prosecution also responded to the psycho-motion brought by the Wohlleben defense (see also the report of 24 May 2017) and moved that it be rejected. The defense will respond once more, in order to give them time to prepare, the court postponed the beginning of the trial tomorrow to 1 pm.
There is no further program for this week, thus it seems likely that the trial day on Thursday will be canceled – the presiding judge did not feel able to make a definite statement today.
Challenge for alleged bias and begin of the break over Pentecost
Today the Wohlleben defense brought their challenge for alleged bias against all judges, based on yesterday’s decisions rejecting their motions for evidence.
The court will have a lot of time to reject this challenge as unfounded – the trial day tomorrow has been canceled, the trial will continue, after a two-week break over Pentecost, on Tuesday, 20 June. The court has not yet announced a program for the week of 20-22 June.
Last steps before the end of the taking of evidence.
Beate Zschäpe’s mother again refused to testify in court, but gave her consent that her earlier police statement from 2011 be considered by the court. This statement was then introduced by one of the police officers who had interviewed her. It contained above all information on Zschäpe’s childhood and youth and on the rift between mother and daughter – one important reason for which, the witness had told the police, had been Beate Zschäpe’s political ideology.
Victims’ counsel for the Yozgat family brought a challenge for bias against defense expert Prof. Bauer – Bauer had topped his embarrassing appearance in court (see our report of 18 May 2017) with an email to German daily “Die Welt”: reacting to the critical reports on his testimony, he had sent the newspaper his expert opinion and had complained about a “burning of witches” being conducted against Zschäpe. There is no need for further comment, Bauer’s derailment speaks for itself. Defense counsel Heer seemed rather amused by the challenge against the other defense counsels’ expert.
The Wohlleben defense, meanwhile, brought a motion for evidence tying in to a diagnosis Bauer had made “in passing” on Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos: Bauer had claimed that both had without a doubt been severely psychopathic perpetrators. Picking up this depoliticization of the NSU’s racist series of murders, the defense moved that a psychiatric expert be heard to prove that the two men had suffered from a psychopathic personality disorder and that this had not been visible for third persons as psychopaths are capable of manipulative behavior to disguise their disorder. This motion will remain without success.
The federal prosecution responded to the motions for evidence of last week. The head of the prosecution team Dr. Diemer himself responded to the victims’ counsel motion concerning Stefan Lange (see the report of 17 May 2017) and used the opportunity to whitewash the German secret services: he claimed that there was no reason to believe that the secret services had ever failed to pass on information to the police – quite to the contrary, he went on, information provided by these services had significantly furthered the trial in Munich. This statement obviously results from the self-image of the federal prosecution as a political office tasked above all with protecting the state and its agencies. Anyone who has followed the developments concerning the NSU complex in the last few years – the destruction of case files, the scandalous appearances by contact officers in court, the sheer number of informers in the Nazi scene surrounding the NSU core trio – can see that his statement his nothing but propaganda.
The court then considered how to deal with the critique of methodology presented by Prof Faustmann and the response announced by Prof. Saß. It decided – contrary to a defense motion – not to summon Faustmann for next Tuesday, the day on which Saß will present his response.
As to what will happen on the other two trial days next week, the presiding judge refused any comment. It seems unlikely that the court will be able to finish the taking of evidence by next week – inter alia, it will have to deal with a number of motions for evidence and will have to again consider the personal details of the accused. This last aspect will likely include a recent judgment (which is not yet final) of the Local Court in Chemnitz which last week convicted him of criminal assault and coercion for beating and kicking a teenager in Chemnitz.
Expert witness Prof. Bauer: „a character witness in the guise of a professor”
Today the court and parties questioned expert witness Prof. Bauer (on his expert opinion see the report of 3 May 2017). What was already clear after his first appearance in court became even more clear today: Bauer’s opinion is not worth the paper it is printed on.
Bauer related that he first visited Zschäpe in his capacity as a physician, only after Zschäpe had told him about alleged violent attacks by Uwe Böhnhardt and he had informed her counsel of these claims had he been tasked with presenting an expert opinion. He was of the firm opinion that he could nonetheless present an objective, neutral opinion – even after being informed that most courts consider an earlier physician-patient relationship, which is after all based on trust and partiality, an obstacle to tasking the same physician with presenting an expert opinion. Continue reading
Final motions for evidence
Today marked the final day of the deadline set by the court for motions for evidence – and several such motions were in deed made.
Zschäpe counsel Grasel moved that the court consider the minutes of the statement Zschäpe’s mother had made to the police. On her first appearance in court, her mother had refused to testify in court and had also withheld her content to the court using her earlier statement. However, after expert witness Bauer had referred to that statement in his opinion, she has now given that consent. As it was not made quite explicit whether she still refuses to testify in person, the court has summoned her as a witness for next week – it does seem likely, though, that she will refuse to testify and only confirm that she consents to her police statement being used. The court has also summoned one of the police officers who had questioned her so that he may introduce that statement. Continue reading
Questions for defense expert Prof. Faustmann
Today the court and parties questioned expert witness Prof. Faustmann, who had been summoned by Zschäpe’s “old” defense counsel Heer, Stahl and Sturm to present a “critique of methodology” of expert witness Prof. Saß.
The central critique presented by Faustmann turned out to be one aspect of Saß’ expert statement which is quite genial in its modesty: Saß stressed that psychiatry is not a natural science and that forensic psychiatry, a science tasked with presenting prognoses in individual cases, can never be free of subjective assessments and the influence of the individual knowledge of the expert witness. According to Saß, therefore, one main quality criterion for forensic psychiatric expert opinions is that they present the material in an accessible manner and that the reader – in this case the court – is able to follow and reconstruct the expert’s arguments. Continue reading
On Prof. Bauer’s expert opinion. And: no trial days until 16 May 2017
Today the court heard expert witness Prof. Bauer (Freiburg), who had been summoned by Zschäpe defense counsel Grasel and Borchert. Bauer, who is more widely known as an author of popular science books than as a forensic expert, had talked with Zschäpe over some 14 hours in detention and had authored a written expert opinion of some 50 pages in which he concludes that Zschäpe was suffering from a “severe dependent personality disorder” which led to a diminished criminal responsibility.
Before Bauer could present his opinion, the usual interruptions in the trial arose: defense counsel Heer had a pressing need for a written copy of colleague Grasel’s motion for evidence that Bauer be heard, which led to a fifteen-minute break so that the motion could be copied and passed out. Continue reading
The “critique of methodology” presented by expert witness Prof. Faustmann
The heated discussions of the last days about whether expert witness Prof. Faustmann, who had been summoned by Zschäpe’s assigned counsel, would be heard or not, discussions which led to many speculations, turned out to be a tempest in a teapot. This morning, presiding judge Götzl did not reference these discussions at all, instead simply asking Prof. Faustmann to take the witness stand and present his expert opinion.
Faustmann then read out his opinion, which had already been passed out to the parties with the defense motion on Tuesday. He was not asked questions on his opinion today, instead the presiding judge notified the parties that Prof. Faustmann would be summoned again for 16 May so that questions may be asked then.
Wrangling over the defense expert
At the start of the trial day, the court heard the prosecution’s response to the defense motion for the court to hear their expert witness Prof. Faustmann. They asked that the motion be denied since the “critique of methodology” presented by Faustmann did not raise any doubts concerning the competence of expert witness Prof. Saß or concerning the reliability of his expert opinion.
This was followed by a lengthy discussion in which neither Zschäpe’s defense counsel Heer, Stahl and Sturm nor the federal prosecution left a positive impression: defense counsel wanted a written copy of the prosecution response since they had not been able to follow it – as they had similarly been unable a number of times earlier, and in contrast to the court and other parties who had been able to follow the prosecution’s arguments. Continue reading
“The accused could not have foreseen such a course of events”
Today the court first heard the prosecution’s response to the motions for evidence brought by the Wohlleben defence in the week before the Easter break. Also discussed was the announcement by victims’ counsel for the Yozgat family to summon an expert witness on what secret service officer Temme must have observed of the murder of Halit Yozgat (see the report of 5 April 2017). The federal prosecutors had stated their opinion that victims’ counsel generally did not have a right to summon expert witnesses themselves, victims’ counsel had replied in detail. The court has not yet made a determination on this issue.
The court rejected further motions for evidence brought by victims’ counsel, above all the motion concerning state responsibility for the “attack after the attack”, the investigations and publicly voiced suspicions against the victims of the NSU bombing attack in the Keupstraße in Cologne (see the report of 7 March 2017). Continue reading