29 March 2017

The next round in the game of “challenge the judge”

The challenges for alleged bias brought on 8 and 9 March and in the following two weeks were all unsuccessful. The court noted that the challenges brought by the Zschäpe defense in the last two weeks had been withdrawn – based on an exchange of letters which shows that the short moment on cooperation within the Zschäpe defense is already over again. Zschäpe marked the beginning by writing to the presiding judge that she had not at all been asked before her counsel Heer, Stahl and Sturm brought the additional challenges in her name and that she did not wish to pursue these challenges. Heer, Stahl and Sturm answered with a long letter detailing how counsel Borchert and Grasel had told them several times that Zschäpe had agreed to these challenges. Borchert and Grasel rejected these statements and accused Heer, Stahl and Sturm of having violated attorney-client privilege. 

Viewing these proceedings from the outside, one is again left with the feeling that Zschäpe is quite successful in manipulating her various counsel and, in this case, setting them against each other. Heer, Stahl and Sturm once again asked to be relieved of their duties, claiming that either Zschäpe herself or Grasel and Borchert had lied to her. Zschäpe herself also asked that Heer, Stahl and Sturm be relieved, based on the claim that they had violated attorney-client privilege.

Meanwhile, the Wohlleben defense announced the next round in the game of “challenge the judge” – they asked to be given time until tomorrow morning to bring a challenge for alleged bias against the three judges – two members of the bench and one alternate judges – who today rejected their challenges against the presiding judge.

The defense did not contribute anything relevant by way of motions for evidence or the like. The only announcement in this vein was a letter by Heer, Stahl and Sturm noting that they had summoned their own expert witness for the week after the Easter break – most likely so that he can present his rather unconvincing “critical-methodological” remarks on the expert opinion of Prof. Saß.

Victims’ counsel asked that the court consider the case files of two investigations into a case of anti-Semitic propaganda and an attempted racist bombing attack conducted in Jena in 1995 based on reasons to believe that members of the circle around Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt had been involved. Surprisingly, the federal prosecution has not made these files part of the case file in Munich.