The Federal Court of Justice of Germany (BGH), based in the western German town of Karlsruhe, ruled on Thursday that talking to yourself belongs to the “innermost, unreachable area of the personality,” and therefore came under the jurisdiction of the freedom of thought.
The ruling was made following an appeal in a case from 2009, when a Cologne court convicted three people of murdering a woman, when, since the victim was never found, the decisive prosecution evidence was a series of overheard conversations, as well as monologues the main suspect was having with himself in which the word “kill” was heard.
That case will now have to be re-tried in another Cologne court, where other evidence will have to be assessed.
The court did rule that not all conversations with yourself count as private. For a conversation to be inadmissible as evidence, it must be recognizable as a private expression of thoughts. If it is clear that a suspect knows that someone may be overhearing him or her, whether in a public or a private place, that defence is no longer valid.
The judges ruled that talking to yourself is often characterized by the fact that sentences are often fragmentary, and therefore open to interpretation. “That is a substantial difference to a diary entry,” explained presiding judge Thomas Fischer.
Diary entries may be used as evidence in serious crimes like murder.