Almost exactly a year after the indictment was read out, the verdict in the Trier amok trial before the district court in the Rhineland-Palatinate city fell on Tuesday: The accused was sentenced to life imprisonment for multiple murders.
The Trier Regional Court also determined the particular gravity of the guilt and ordered the man to be placed in a closed psychiatric hospital.
The court saw it as proven that the 52-year-old raced through the pedestrian zone in his SUV on December 1, 2020 in order to kill or injure as many people as possible.
Five people died in the act: a nine-week-old baby, his father (45) and three women aged 73, 52 and 25. There were also numerous injuries and around 300 traumatized eyewitnesses. The public prosecutor had accused the German of five murders and attempted murder in 18 other cases as well as serious bodily harm.
The jury chamber of the court, chaired by Petra Schmitz, followed the demands of the public prosecutor’s office in the verdict, the reasoning for the verdict initially continued on Tuesday. The majority of the victims’ lawyers had also spoken out in favor of life imprisonment and the placement of the man in a psychiatric ward. The defense was for hospitalization.
According to the opinion of a psychiatric expert, the 52-year-old suffers from paranoid schizophrenia with bizarre delusions. He is therefore less culpable and is considered dangerous to the public. The accused sees himself as a victim of “a large-scale conspiracy by the state” against him and feels persecuted, bugged and observed, the expert reported. The amok driver does not want to have any memory of the crime period.
The bereaved and those affected are relieved that the process is coming to an end after a year, said Bernd Steinmetz for the Disaster Aftercare Foundation of the German Press Agency. “It has been a burden for a long time now.” The process was “a milestone for processing”.
In the more than 40 days of negotiations since August 19, 2021, dozens of witnesses have been heard who spoke of traumatic experiences. Many had described how the man deliberately approached his victims, hitting, injuring and killing people. They also reported how heavily the experience weighed on them to this day: the images kept coming back, they remembered the screams from back then.
According to the public prosecutor’s office, when the judgment becomes final, the measure of placement in a psychiatric ward will be carried out first. It applies indefinitely. Should an expert come to the conclusion after five or 25 years that the man is cured, then the normal prison system will follow.
The amok driver is therefore “probably not going to get out of prison anymore,” said senior public prosecutor Samel. In the case of life imprisonment, after 15 years the chamber for the execution of sentences will first examine whether it is justifiable to suspend the life imprisonment sentence at all. In most cases, however, this is not the case.