High court overturns murder charge for Berlin street racers

The Federal High Court on Thursday overturned a landmark ruling by a Berlin state court, which last year convicted two men for murder after they killed a man in an illegal street race.

High court overturns murder charge for Berlin street racers
The crash debris in western Berlin. Photo: DPA

The constitutional court found there was insufficient proof that the men had intended to take a life, which is a condition for a murder, rather than a manslaughter, conviction.

The court sent the case back to a lower court in the capital Berlin, where the landmark verdict was originally handed down in February 2017.

Hamdi H. and Marvin N. were then each sentenced to a maximum jail term of 15 years for their deadly race on February 1st 2016, but can now hope for a lesser conviction of negligent homicide.

The two, aged 24 and 26 at the time, were racing through western Berlin near the city's landmark KaDeWe shopping centre and running a series of red lights when Hamdi H. crashed at 160 kilometres (100 miles) per hour into a jeep.

The jeep's 69-year-old driver was killed instantly as his vehicle was hurled 70 metres (230 feet) down the road.

The prosecution argued that the two young men had casually accepted that they may kill someone, and that the crash car was effectively a “murder weapon”.

The defence lawyers had pleaded for a manslaughter conviction for Hamdi H. and a lesser charge of endangering street traffic for Marvin N.

During the original trial, a psychologist described one of the defendants as “extremely overly self-confident” and said he was determined to “win in order to boost his ego”.

Since the high-profile Berlin case, German laws have been toughened and illegal street races can now be punished by up to 10 years jail.

However, the higher sentences cannot be retroactively applied to the Berlin street race case.


German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.