20 December 2016

Defense tries to block psychiatric expert opinion on Zschäpe

Many in Munich, above all members of the press, were anxiously awaiting the opinion of psychiatric expert Prof. Dr. Saß on the accused Zschäpe. However, that opinion was not – yet – presented today.

Saß had, already in 2013, been tasked with an expert opinion on whether Zschäpe fulfilled the preconditions for preventive detention. Zschäpe had refused all cooperation with the expert, who had in turn spent the majority of trial days in the courtroom watching the proceedings. This had lead discussions with Zschäpe’s counsel several times, inter alia when they protested that Saß was not to be allowed to watch Zschäpe during breaks in the trial.

Saß had presented his preliminary written opinion a few weeks ago. The Zschäpe defense had tried to push his oral opinion to January in order to give them more time to prepare. However, the presiding judge had insisted on hearing Saß in December (see the report of 8 December 2016).

The trial day began, however, with necessary preparations for his opinion. Victims’ counsel had already on 14 September 2016 moved that a letter sent by Zschäpe to another incarcerated neo-Nazi in 2013 be introduced into evidence, inter alia since her self-representation in the letter, which stands in stark contrast to that in her statement to the court, was helpful for the expert witness (see the report of 14 September 2016). The court has now introduced the letter into evidence by way of a procedure in which parties read the document on their own between trial days. Victims’ counsel now wanted to comment on the evidence, reading out a few lines from the letter to present in context. Zschäpe’s counsel again tried to block this, but when it became clear that Heer, Stahl and Sturm were only using the issue in order to further delay Saß’ hearing, victims’ counsel decided not to make a comment at this time.

The Zschäpe defense then read out a 33 page-motion asking that Saß be relieved of his duties based on alleged methodological failings in his preliminary written opinion. Attached to the motion is a “critical evaluation of methodology” presented by the defense’s own expert, a neurologist and professor at the Ruhr-University in Bochum – which however is not all that convincing.

The presiding judge apparently did not feel up to denying the motion this afternoon, accordingly he ended the trial day at 3.26 pm. The trial will continue tomorrow, likely with Saß’ expert opinion.