Czech court releases murder suspect from custody now that all witnesses to shooting of Romani man have been questioned
On the afternoon of 14 August the gunman who shot a 34-year-old Romani man at a housing estate in Chomutov on 27 May was released from custody. Inhabitants of the housing estate are using online social networks to share the incorrect information that he has been acquitted.
The man is still charged wth murder and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. The reason he was remanded into custody in the first place was the suspicion that he might influence eyewitnesses if he remained at large.
The shooter has been in custody since 29 May. The Chomutov District Court remanded him so he would not be able to influence eyewitnesses.
He has now been released. "The accused was released from custody as the reasons for his being remanded into custody no longer obtain, i.e., all eyewitnesses have been interrogated for whom there was a risk that he might have attempted to influence them," said supervising State Prosecutor Vladimír Jan.
Lawyer: Release from custody does not mean acquittal
"Just as being remanded into custody is not a guilty verdict, release from custody does not mean acquittal. The reasons an accused is remanded into custody are exactly described by the Code of Criminal Procedure, which also establishes the maximum length of custody. The most brief is for so-called collusive custody, where there are grounds to be concerned that the accused will influence eyewitnesses who have not yet been interrogated or will interfere with the investigation in other ways. Collusive custody may last a maximum of three months," lawyer Anna Jiroková explained to news server Romea.cz.
The accused may, moreover, be remanded back into custody at any time should the court find grounds to do so. "After the release of an accused from custody the criminal proceedings continues and custody may be reinstated at any time if, for example, the accused does not abide by the restrictions associated with the release or avoids taking delivery of registered mail. Guilt and punishment are decided subsequently by the court, and whether the prosecution involves the accused being at large or in custody has absolutely no influence on how the evidence of guilt is assessed," said Jirotková.
"If the accused is prosecuted for a felony with such a potentially lengthy sentence, then it is actually more customary that they remain in custody, even in cases where there is no objective reason to do so. That is not the correct procedure, though - according to the Code of Criminal Procedure, if it can be presumed that the accused will not seek to evade prosecution, will not mar the investigation and will not commit further criminal activity, then the severity of the charges in and of themselves are decidedly not enough reason to remand the accused into custody. It is, therefore, absolutely in order for such an accused to be at large. However, the accused must uphold all of the restrictions related to the prosecution and especially must appear in court or at a police station when summoned," the lawyer said.
Police recently undertook a reconstruction of the May shooting. Jan has confirmed to the media that the 37-year-old accused participated in that effort.
The re-enactment took place at night in order to approximate the conditions of the incident as closely as possible. The shooter, if convicted, faces between 12 and 20 years in prison.
The murder happened on 27 May at around 3 AM. Police say the accused heard noise, looked out the window, and saw a van crashing into parked cars.
The driver attempted to escape the scene by driving in the direction of his relatives, who were standing in front of the apartment building on the sidewalk and with whom he had been arguing. The accused immediately took his firearm, for which he has a license, ran out in front of the building, and began shooting at the van as it drove past.
The gunman hit the driver more than once, causing him serious injuries from which he died at the scene. The shooter then waited for police to arrive.
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