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Teens jailed in Munich S-Bahn murder trial

DDP/DPA/The Local · 6 Sep 2010, 10:40

Published: 06 Sep 2010 10:40 GMT+02:00

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Nineteen-year-old Markus Schiller was sentenced to nine years and 10 months in prison for murder, while 18-year-old Sebastian Leibinger received seven years for dangerous bodily harm resulting in death.

The pair beat and kicked the 50-year-old at Munich’s Solln S-Bahn train platform on September 12, 2009 after he had tried to protect a group of younger children from their bullying.

Brunner had intervened while they were attempting to extort money out of the group of children on an S-Bahn train. Brunner offered to escort the children out of the Solln station but the teens, who had allegedly been drinking, followed him off the train.

After the altercation began, the defendants continued to punch and kick Brunner even after he had struck his head on a metal handrail and fallen to the ground.

Brunner died two hours after the altercation in a Munich hospital.

But contrary to first indications, Brunner did not succumb to injuries inflicted by the two young men. Instead experts determined that he suffered cardiac arrest due to a heart problem that had gone undiagnosed.

During the trial a witness also revealed that Brunner had thrown the first punch at the teens, apparently in an attempt to prevent being attacked.

But Markus Schiller still received the most severe sentence possible for a youth offender, because witnesses said he had kicked Brunner after he was already on the ground.

During the 12-day trial in the Munich youth court, which saw testimony from more than 50 witnesses, the defence had plead for a much more lenient sentence for the two teens, who were 17 and 18 at the time of the attack. The sentences were still short of what state prosecutors wanted, though.

Story continues below…

Brunner’s death, following a display of what Germans call Zivilcourage, or “civil courage,” shocked the nation, and on Monday the German Police Union (DPoIG) praised the verdict as a “strong vote” for behaviour such as his.

“The verdict is hard and therefore good,” DPoIG head Rainer Wendt said in a statement. “We are happy that the court remained strict on the actual crime and the accompanying criminal energy of the perpetrators and was uninfluenced by minor side issues.”

Brunner’s heart defect did not change the value of his actions, the organisation said, adding that citizens should be expected to at least inform police when they witness criminal behaviour.

DDP/DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

13:08 September 6, 2010 by Prufrock2010
These young men got off with an extremely light sentence, in my view. German law doesn't seem to put much value on human life.
14:04 September 6, 2010 by hh922
I agree... punishment should have been more harsh... the picture of these guys make them look much older than 18-19, so they weren't just some "young teenagers" who made a mistake - they knew what they were doing.
16:54 September 6, 2010 by auslanderus
First, why are there faces not shown? There so proud of what they did so why not show there faces? They always cover up peoples faces and I don't understand why. These two got off to easy. they should have gotten longer. What value do these judges put on life. It seems not enough.
18:15 September 6, 2010 by twisted
I agree that the sentences are far too short for such a crime. 20 years would be a lot better. One can only hope they get what they deserve from some of the heavies in prison.

Yes, it does seems that German law doesn't seem to make offenders pay a price for taking a life. I guess the value of life isn't very high to Germans.
18:23 September 6, 2010 by heathen
get a rope
19:06 September 6, 2010 by LMFAO
"Brunner did not succumb to injuries inflicted by the two young men. Instead experts determined that he suffered cardiac arrest due to a heart problem that had gone undiagnosed."

They didn't kill him.

The sentences are fair.
19:54 September 6, 2010 by Prufrock2010
"The sentences are fair."

Did the experts also opine about causation? Would Brunner have suffered cardiac arrest had he not been assaulted?

Where I come from the actions of the assailants would be classified as felony murder and they would be looking at life in the joint, which I believe would be a fair sentence.
23:06 September 6, 2010 by DinhoPilot
Were they black? were they muslims? were they asian? or both...

Then people say its only immigrants that cause wide spread violence
17:58 September 7, 2010 by Avidror
@ Prufrock2010 and twisted

There is a big difference between causing someone's death on purpose and causing someone's death due to an assault which is not intended to kill. The first crime is murder properly, while the second is homicide. Both of them constitute of course punishable offenses, but the sentences applied to them can't be the same. Not only the result but also the intention must be taken into account.

@ DinhoPilot

As far as I'm concerned, this is not about xenophobia.
18:39 September 7, 2010 by Prufrock2010
"There is a big difference between causing someone's death on purpose and causing someone's death due to an assault which is not intended to kill."

Not where I come from. In most American states, including California where I practiced, if someone (even an accomplice) dies during the commission of a felony (such as the crime in question here), it is charged as felony murder and is punishable as either first or second degree murder. The defendant's intention to kill, or lack of it, is irrelevant.

Apparently Germany deals with these crimes another way, and much too leniently, in my view.
01:17 September 8, 2010 by tulsatimetraveler
If it had happened here in Oklahoma, they would be up for murder. He died from heart failure that was triggered by "stresses" of the events created by the two teens, and that makes them responsible.
02:53 September 8, 2010 by Avidror
@ Prufrock

The crime happened in Germany, not in California.

In Germany, if the death is a negligent consequence of an intended act of violence, it is classified as "Körperverletzung mit Todesfolge" (i.e., "Infliction of bodily harm with deadly outcome"), according to the section 227 of the Penal Code.

08:05 September 8, 2010 by Prufrock2010
I know where the crime happened. You've just confirmed my supposition that Germany treats these crimes differently from the way they are dealt with where I come from -- and too leniently, as I previously suggested. Thanks for the clarification. The next time I kill somebody I'll do it here rather than in America.
19:51 September 8, 2010 by Avidror
@ Prufrock2010

Too leniently according to the American legal point of view. But your system fails at one point: the intention of the criminal is irrelevant. And that's a mistake. If I had punched somebody after being insulted by my victim, accidentally killing him, and receiving the same sentence than someone responsible for a criminal action intended to kill the victim, I'd be very uspset.

By the way, do you really think that your system is more able than the German one to make criminal offenders to reconsider what they want to do with other people (i.e., commit a crime)? I guess that as a practicer you should know that things don't work in that way... Just compare criminal statistics.
23:49 September 8, 2010 by Prufrock2010
I understand your point of view, but I think you miss my point altogether. The hypothetical that you raise (punching somebody after being insulted, accidentally killing him) is not applicable in this case. What you describe is a homicide that would most likely be charged as manslaughter. It lacks the necessary element of premeditation. The Munich case is quite different. The defendants were in the act of committing a premeditated strong-arm robbery when the victim intervened on behalf of the kids It is not the punching of the victim after an insult that would rise to the level of felony murder, it is the predicate act of attempting to rob the kids with premeditation that set everything in motion that resulted in a man's death. That IS the legal definition of felony murder. But for the underlying crime, the victim would not have intervened, would not have been assaulted and would not have died.

I'm not suggesting that the American system is superior or inferior to the German system, merely that it is different. The American system is not intended to be remedial. It is intended to be punitive. The criminal statistics that you refer to are not instructive or enlightening. Probably the most relevant statistics would be the respective rates of recidivism of violent criminals who are convicted, imprisoned and eventually released. I don't have those statistics, but I suspect that Germany's rate is better than America's. That said, people who kill other people during the commission of a felony should be put in prison for a very long time. That's what prisons are for.
03:26 September 9, 2010 by Avidror
@ Prufrock2010

I understood what the American system has established. I just commented my point of view, which is that it is not comparable killing on purpose with killing without purpose. If the latter has happened during a felony is of course worse than during other circumstances and it should be applied a higher jail sentence, but even in such a case, there is not the same degree of... wickedness.
09:22 September 9, 2010 by Julio Chavezmontes
It is truly shocking to see that even though there were 50 witnesses to the violent attack on Mister Brunner, no one in the train statioon intervened to help him. Every one else just stood and watched the young criminals perform their feat!

Indifference and passive awe are common reactions to episodes of this sort.

Beyond the penalties imposed on these two young criminals, we should rethink what we are teaching our young generations, and the options we are giving them for a humane and dignified life.

Double morals at every level, from politics to corporate and business worlds, demoralize young people, who are tought that "success" means doing what you want, whenever you want to, and with no consequences at all.

What these teens did, must surely be seen by many others as "very cool", just like James Dean... so to speak.

12:05 September 12, 2010 by Talonx
@ Prufrock and others

Punitive justice does not fix the problem. Sentences that constitute 1/10 of a persons life (what these boys got), are still too much. You say you value human life, while these boys are still human, let them have their lives. At base, it's hypocritical to suggest that Germany doesn't value human life, because they don't compound the loss of life with the confinement of life like the American justice system.

Punishment in the terms of jail sentences or death penalties does not prevent crimes, it's neither immediate enough an examplar, nor is it finite enough an event. If you want to start torturing people in public, putting them on the rack, or in the town stocks than you might prevent crime some crimes, but I think we've moved past that model of justice. The only other solution is to provide therapy and counseling (far more effecitve in changing behavior than any punishment anyways).
11:35 December 18, 2010 by DoubleDTown
Check it, a Pole in Chicago got 7 years for defacing a Jewish cemetery. He probably would have had a lighter sentence if he'd killed a Jew (or anyone else) in Germany. These German murder sentences are ridiculously short.

7-year jail term for Norridge hate crime

Polish national scrawled anti-Semitic graffiti on Jewish headstones

By Brian Cox, Special to the Tribune

7:26 PM CST, December 17, 2010

A Norridge man found guilty of a hate crime for spraying anti-Semitic graffiti on dozens of grave markers at a Jewish cemetery was sentenced Friday to seven years in prison.

"You have this warped idea that you're going to be a hero to these other bigots and white supremacists," Cook County Circuit Judge Larry Axelrood told Mariusz Wdziekonski before handing down the maximum sentence. "You wanted to inflict your hatred. You wanted to inflict your pain. You brought shame to your family."

Wdziekonski, 25, did not speak during his sentencing at the Skokie branch courthouse.

He was convicted Dec. 3 of spray-painting anti-Semitic epithets and neo-Nazi and white supremacist hate symbols on 67 headstones in Westlawn Cemetery in Norridge in January 2008. One grave marker was spray-painted with a noose with a Jewish Star of David dangling from it, authorities said.

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