Woman wrongly jailed for murder faces €32,000 bill

A woman who was wrongly convicted of murdering her father and jailed for life has been told by a court she must pay €32,000 towards the cost of finding the evidence which proved her innocence.

Woman wrongly jailed for murder faces €32,000 bill
Photo: Dirk Lässig

Monika de Montgazon was convicted in 2005 of setting fire to the house in Berlin where she, her partner and her 76-year-old father were living, with the intention of killing the old man for his insurance payout.

But she challenged the conviction from jail – and after 888 days behind bars, she had assembled enough evidence to show the fire had been an accident, started by a cigarette left burning in her father’s bed, the Tagesspiegel newspaper said on Thursday.

The now 56-year-old was freed in March 2006 having served nearly two and a half years of a life sentence.

But she is still fighting for appropriate compensation after rejecting an initial offer of €11 for each day she spent in prison.

Now the justice system has given her another “slap in the face” de Montgazon told journalists on Wednesday. It has told her it would only cover €86,000 of the costs of her appeal, leaving her with a €32,000 bill.

The Berlin state supreme court decided de Montgazon’s appeal had cost too much – paying experts up to €125 an hour of work, as opposed to the €84 it considered reasonable.

De Montgazon had “not plausibly argued” why the costs were so high, said the court.

Ulrich Schnellenberg, head of the Berlin lawyers’ association said this was ridiculous. “How is someone sentenced to life in prison and fighting for their freedom supposed to negotiate a rate in line with market prices with experts?” he said.

Schnellenberg is demanding that Berlin Justice Senator Thomas Heilmann intervene to “find a non-bureaucratic solution to averting this injury as soon as possible.”

Montgazon will meanwhile be waiting on a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court, to which she has submitted a complaint.

Previously a doctor’s assistant, de Montgazon now runs a disco in Berlin’s Neukölln district. “This just goes on and on,” she told the paper on Thursday. “But I’ll keep fighting.”

The Local/jlb

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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.

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around

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