Triple Jeopardy

photo: cafe le danube, pl rhin et danube

The other café at the Place de Rhin et Danube.

Trial Sets Several 'Firsts'

Paris:- Monday, 2. July 2001:- Readers of newspapers and viewers of TV-news could have been following the murder trial of Patrick Dils quite closely, if the trial had not be held 'in camera.'

After several days of second-hand reports from outside the courtroom, a 'popular' jury of eight men and four women found Mr. Dils guiltyphoto: bals sapeurs pompiers on Friday night of the murder of two young boys and he was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment.

One could have thought that this was an improvement over the sentence of life imprisonment that Patrick Dils received after the first trial for the same crime, on 27. January 1989.

On 13 and 14 July - firemen's 'bals' all over Paris.

The jury's decision was at least eight to four for conviction - the minimum required by French law - and came after hours of deliberation and after the state's Avocat Général had specifically asked for Mr. Dils' acquittal.

The trial was held 'in camera' because both Mr. Dils and the victims were minors at the time of the crime.

The trial also set some legal milestones in France. After serving about 14 years in prison, Mr. Dils' life sentence was quashed - which has never happened for a minor and never for a life sentence. He was retried by the Assize Court in Reims.

This was done because of the presence of a five-time convicted serial killer, placed near the scene of the crime and at about the time that it was committed in 1986. He appeared as a witness in this trial, but denied killing the two boys.

The lawyers for the victims' families did not appreciate the state attorney asking for the acquittal. At thephoto: resto les petites sorcieres time of the first trial, the state's prosecutor had a 'confession' extracted by the police to present as evidence - and according to reports, the victims' families still believe this is the 'true' truth.

More fresh-air dining in Paris last Saturday night.

Since repudiating his confession - years ago - Mr. Dils has maintained that he is innocent. He was 16 years old at the time the crime was committed.

However, since the state attorney did ask for the acquittal of Mr. Dils, the victims' families and their lawyers thought the jury would agree - so all were stunned when the jury decided otherwise.

Apparently they did so because the state's attorney did not evoke the presence of the serial killer - the only reason for the retrial - but reiterated the elements of 'evidence' presented in the first trial.

Another factor seemed to be Mr. Dils' reported impassivity during the latest trial. Before the jury left the courtroom to deliberate he told them that 'the trial had convinced him of the atrocity of the murders and the suffering of the victims' relatives.'

He added that, 'he knew he wasn't always convincing, but he was really innocent.'

A day later, Mr. Dils' attorneys, Mr. Florand and Mr. Becker, announced that the conviction would be appealed. Instead of being released on parole after serving 14 years, Patrick Dils has chosen to risk being convicted for the third time for a crime for which he claims his innocence.

This new appeal is permitted under the new law of 'presumed innocence' in France. Also, Patrick Dils may be released 'within months' because he has resumedphoto: sign, soldes a 'detention provisoire' that cannot by law exceed two years for minors.

Jurors do not have to follow the lead of the state's attorney, and they can increase sentences. What the law does require is for jurors to make their decision according to their own 'intimate convictions.'

The summer sales continue until early August in Paris.

What this jury also failed to do was make any concession to Mr. Dils age of 16 when the crimes were committed. The Council of Europe was annoyed in 1989 when this was not accorded, and even the victims' relatives were surprised allowing for age in this trial wasn't taken into account by the jury.

The court itself had enough doubt to quash the initial conviction and accord Mr. Dils a new trial. It has done this only five other times during the last century.

Basically, the jury accepted the word of a convicted serial killer, and rejected the recommendation of the state's attorney - while ignoring he claim of innocence of the defendant.

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