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September 22, 2019
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Czech gunman who murdered Romani man in his own vehicle will serve 10 years

27.6.2019 13:28
The closing testimony of defendant Petr Benda at the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem on 16 April 2018. (PHOTO: František Bikár, Romea.cz)
The closing testimony of defendant Petr Benda at the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem on 16 April 2018. (PHOTO: František Bikár, Romea.cz)

Petr Benda, the 38-year-old man who shot dead the driver of a van that hit another car on a housing estate in Chomutov, will serve 10 years in prison for his crime. The High Court in Prague handed down the final verdict on 25 June, shortening the first-instance verdict handed down in April of last year.

This was the second time the appeals panel of judges had reviewed the case. Last year they reduced Benda's punishment from 12.5 years to seven, which is below the lawfully-established minimum length of a sentence for such a crime.

The judges had taken into account Benda's clean criminal record prior to the event, as well as what they called "a certain share of the blame resting with the injured party". That verdict, however, was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court after Supreme State Prosecutor Pavel Zeman appealed.

Zeman argued that the reasons given by the court for such an extraordinary reduction in the punishment were not enough. "Given the attenuating circumstances that obtain, it was appropriate to hand down the minimum punishment prescribed by law," presiding Judge Martin Zelenka said on 25 June.

Such a punishment had been handed down by the first-instance court, which convicted Benda of premeditated murder. The High Court, however, assessed the crime as one of simple murder, which carries a lesser sentence.

Benda, according to his attorney, had anticipated an increase to the sentence because he was familiar with the Supreme Court's decision. He is considering whether to take any further legal action.

"I was not interested in harming anybody," the convicted murderer reiterated on 25 June to the court. He also said he would like to return to the Litoměřice prison to serve his sentence, with which he is familiar and where he even used to work.

The incident happened on 27 May 2017 at around 3 AM near a block of prefabricated apartment buildings. Benda was erroneously informed by his mother that somebody was driving a vehicle into other cars and probably into people.

In fact the driver had only hit one other automobile during his attempt to leave the housing estate. Benda looked out of his window and saw a silver van driving past.

He loaded his legally-licensed firearm and ran out in front of the building where, without warning, he fired the entire magazine into the driver's cabin. Eight of the 13 rounds fired hit the man behind the steering wheel in the abdomen, the back and elsewhere.

The victim died as a consequence of the serious injuries he sustained. He was a Romani man, but the court said the murder did not have a racial subtext.

ČTK, fk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Chomutov, Kauza, murders, Verdict



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