Winnenden case ‘lay judge’ sacked after drunken police abuse

A specially-appointed “lay judge” in the weapons case against the father of the Winnenden school killer has been sacked after he drunkenly abused police officers in Stuttgart, a court announced Tuesday.

Winnenden case 'lay judge' sacked after drunken police abuse
Officers in front of the Stuttgart courthouse. Photo: DPA

Martin S., who has acted as one of two Schöffen or “lay judges” in the case for the past two months, has been deemed unfit to assess evidence impartially, especially testimony given by police officers.

The 59-year-old recently called police officers “idiots” and “shitheads” after they found him drunk and asleep on a street in Stuttgart in the state of Baden- Württemberg. He went on to tell the officers that he was a lay judge in the Winnenden trial and said they should “be careful or they would regret it.”

Under Germany’s legal system, trials sometimes use such lay judges alongside professional judges – an approximate equivalent to having a jury.

Martin S. was a lay judge in the weapons negligence case against the father of Tim Kretschmer, the 17-year-old who went on a shooting rampage in March 2009 at his former school that left nine pupils and three teachers dead, mostly with execution-style shots to the head. A further three people lost their lives in a dramatic chase and shoot-out with police before Kretschmer turned the gun on himself.

Kretschmer used his father’s 9mm Beretta pistol, which the father kept in his bedroom at home. Baden-Württemberg state prosecutors charged Kretschmer’s father in November 2009 with 15 cases of negligent homicide and a further 13 cases of negligently causing injury, on the grounds that he had left the gun and ammunition unsecured in his bedroom. He legally kept more than a dozen weapons in the family home.

After Martin S. drunkenly abused the police officers, the state prosecutor filed a prejudice complaint against him. The lead judge in the case, Reiner Skujat, agreed the juror’s behaviour “far overstepped the tolerable limits.”

The trial will continue with only one lay judge.

Of major concern was the fact that Martin S. had fallen asleep in the street with a briefcase containing charge sheet against Kretschmer’s father, a list of victims and injuries, and 78 pages of hand-written notes on the case.

The sacked lay judge had “massively” insulted police officers, Skujat concluded. Because he could hardly walk, he was put in a cell by police to sober up. The police charged him with verbal abuse.

The judge said Martin S. had apologised for his remarks and stressed his “lapse” would have no influence on his ability as a lay judge.

But the judge saw it differently: “The law puts the same demands on a lay judge as a professional judge,” Skujat said.

The doubts expressed by the state prosecutor as to Martin S.’s impartiality, especially when it came to testimony by police officers, was well-founded, Skujat concluded.

The court added that until the drunken incident, there had been no clues that Martin S. was unfit to act as a juror.

On the most recent trial day, October 28, the trial was unexpectedly interrupted. The court had “procedural reasons” for the delay, but did not elaborate.

DAPD/The Local/dw

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Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

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In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

READ ALSO: The German road signs that confuse foreigners