7 July 2015

Zschäpe’s fourth defense counsel is granted a week to catch up

The trial day began with a longish discussion of Zschäpe’s three “old” defense counsel with their newly assigned colleague Grasel. Inter alia, it seems that they were discussing the seating order. Sturm, Stahl and Herr at first sat down at their usual seats and asked Grasel to take a seat at the edge of the Zschäpe defense – Zschäpe simply sat down next to Grasel.

Grasel’s first motion was that the trial be interrupted for three weeks in order to allow him to catch up with the trial. The court partially granted the motion, canceling all trial days for this week and shortening the two final weeks in July to two days each.

This interruption was not legally necessary – as noted by the prosecution, Zschäpe has “three additional defense counsel” who are already up to speed. However, neither was the assignment of Grasel legally necessary after Zschäpe’s motion to have counsel Anja Sturm relieved was denied. It seems that the court’s decision to assign was based on other motives, such as a hope that he might bring Zschäpe to fulfill her announcement of maybe making a statement on some of the charges against her (which we still think unlikely) or as a precautionary measure in case the fight between Zschäpe and the three original counsel becomes more heated again. Accordingly, granting Grasel the interruption may also be based on the hope that he will be able to establish himself accordingly within the defense.

According to press reports, Grasel had stated that the defense was a “mammoth task”, but “I think that, with the support of the court and the other colleagues, I will be able to deal with it.” Whether the court had told him earlier that they would be inclined to grant a motion for interruption is unclear – similarly unclear is whether Grasel actually thinks that he will be up to speed within a few weeks.

Of course, today’s decision also throws further into disarray the court’s witness program for the remaining weeks before the summer break. However, in the last weeks it often seemed like the court is not currently conducting the trial with full energy and is mostly trying to make it till the break. This impression is also based on the court’s decision to only sit two days per week in June and early July with respect to Zschäpe’s mental exhaustion, without previously having heard the expert witness again as to her mental state. The right to a speedy trial, which the court often relies upon vis-à-vis victims’ counsel, does not seem all that important at the moment.