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July 2, 2020
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Czech Republic: New expert witness provides yet another explanation why Romani man died after police intervention

30.7.2016 9:34
Markus Pape. (Photo: František Kostlán)
Markus Pape. (Photo: František Kostlán)

On Monday yet another hearing was held at the Sokolov District Court in the matter of the death of Ľudovit K. in the West Bohemian town of Kynšperk. The father of three young children died two days after being subjected to an intervention by two police officers in May 2012.

The officers were responding to a report of an alleged assault on a girl by a man in the park near a footbridge over the river Ohře. When they arrived at the scene, they could not find either the person who reported the incident, nor the alleged victim to identify the alleged perpetrator - just a man who they allege behaved strangely and refused to get into their police vehicle.

During their subsequent intervention against the man, the officers caused extensive injuries to his entire body. After a protracted investigation by the General Inspectorate of the Security Forces (GIBS), both officers (who remain on duty to this day) were accused by the Plzeň Regional Prosecutor of negligent homicide.

The District Court in Sokolov has been dealing with the case since February of 2014. News server Romea.cz has repeatedly reported on the investigation and the trial.

The only point on the agenda of this most recent hearing was the testimony of Martin Dobiáš, an expert witness from the Faculty of Medicine at Palacký University in Olomouc, who provided the court with a third expert opinion on the cause of death. The first opinion was provided by expert witnesses from the local hospital in Sokolov on the basis of an autopsy of the deceased.

That first opinion stated that the victim's death was not necessarily caused by the police intervention, but rathery by a spontaneous epileptic fit. The attorney for the victim's family then sought to enter into evidence a second opinion from an expert witness with the renowned Institute of Forensic Medicine at the Královské Vinohrady Teaching Hospital in Prague (the first "institutional" opinion in the case).

In that second opinion, experts from the renowned Third Medical Department of Charles University, led by Jiří Hladík, found that the results of the autopsy confirm the police officer's intervention was the sole cause of the victim's death. After testifying in court at the end of February 2014, Hladík, who was director of the institute in Prague at the time, told news server Romea.cz that the case was one of "classic battery" leading to the death of the victim.

Media report on the case tendentiously

Some media outlets reporting on Monday's hearing retiterated old information about the case that has since been refuted during the trial. For example, news server iDNES.cz reported that the nighttime conflict beween the police officers and the unarmed man escalated into their brawling with the "mentally deranged" victim.

If the officers actually fought with the man, it is impossible to explain why neither of them suffered the slightest injury. He was an active athlete with
exceptionally well-developed musculature, and they alleged he was highly aggressive at the time.

Moreover, iDNES.cz has reported the officers' disproved allegations that the deceased had a criminal record with 10 convictions, assertions for which there is no evidence. The news server has also reported that Ľudovit K. failed to obey the officers' order to get into the police vehicle so "they could give him a breath test."

The officers, however, have never made any such claim that they planned to administer such a test, neither during the investigation, nor yet during the trial. Nataša Siváková, the deceased's partner, has since learned about the incident with the girl that preceded the police intervention and said that her partner "was just doing his best to warn the woman that her dog should be on a leash."

Siváková also said Ľudovit K. rarely drank. The girl in question has confirmed to the court that on that fateful night she was never assaulted by anybody and that she knew Ľudovit K. to be a decent person who had previously protected her from being attacked by a strange man at a discotheque. 

Biochemical analysis of blood sample has ruled out a diagnosis of delirium tremens

During his testimony in court on Monday, Dobiáš said the following:  "We cannot agree that the primary case of the victim's death was the police intervention. The cause of the brain swelling and subsequent organ failure, in our opinion, is delirium tremens or delirium caused by alcohol."

The expert witness also said that "the course of that ailment was, in this case, absolutely typical, including symptoms such as aggressivity, disorientation or hallucinations." During delirium, which can last for several days, a person can die without any other external factors instigating their decline.

During his assessment of the state of health of the deceased, this third expert witness did not just use the findings of the medical reports, but also took as valid the police officers' allegations that Ľudovít K. had behaved aggressively and shown signs of drunkenness and superhuman strength. However, according to the findings of the doctor at the hosptial in Sokolov who received the severely injured man that night, there was no alcohol in the blood sample taken immediately after his arrival to the hospital.

News server Romea.cz has asked the Prague-based medical expert Jiří Hladík for his opinion of the conclusions drawn by this new expert assessment from Olomouc, and he said there is no way to establish a diagnosis of delirium tremens from the available evidence. "It would have unequivocally showed up in the biochemistry," he said.

Hladík said he belives the autopsy report contains enough information to exclude such a diagnosis. The first experts in Sokolov also did not find evidence for that diagnosis.

The experts disagree - could a psychiatrist decipher the cause of death?

At the conclusion of Monday's hearing, Judge Milan Tomeš said all of the questions raised by the attorney for the victim's family and by the defense
concerned the field of psychiatry. The tribunal will therefore summon a relevant expert from that field to give an assessment of the symptoms of the state of alcoholic delirium.

The next hearing will take place on 19 August at 9 AM, when closing arguments will also be made. Four years after the crime was committed, we may finally see a first-instance verdict in the case.

The defendants in the case (the police officers), who were present in court, seemed visibly relieved by the expert witness "score", understanding it to be 2:1 in their favor. So far two expert medical opinions stand against one expert finding that it was they who caused the death of the deceased through their intervention.

The truth, of course, is that the Olomouc expert's version contradicts both of the preceding assessments. The "score", therefore, is 1:1:1, and it will be up to the judges which expert to believe.

Markus Pape, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Kauza, Násilí, Policie, úmrtí



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