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Czech Supreme Court to review verdict in shooting murder of Romani man in Chomutov

17.11.2018 10:49
The closing testimony of defendant Petr Benda at the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem on 16 April 2018. (PHOTO: František Bikár,
The closing testimony of defendant Petr Benda at the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem on 16 April 2018. (PHOTO: František Bikár,

The verdict against Petr Benda, who was sentenced to seven years in prison for the killing of a young Romani man who was driving a van on a housing estate in Chomutov, will be reviewed by the Czech Supreme Court now that both the defense and the prosecution have appealed, according to the InfoSoud database. Benda fired a gun at the van under the mistaken impression that it was endangering people.

The file and the two appeals are still with the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem, which should hand everything over to the Supreme Court for its decision. Petr Malý, spokesperson for the Supreme State Prosecutor, confirmed to the Czech News Agency that one of the appeals was filed by Chief Prosecutor Pavel Zeman.

"The main argument of the appeal is that the conditions were not fulfilled for the exceptional reduction of this sentence, which is lower than such criminal charges require. I would add that the defendant was found guilty of felony murder," he said. The Regional Court originally sentenced Benda to 12.5 years in prison, but the High Court significantly reduced that sentence to seven years, and prosecutors announced at the time that they would take advantage of the opportunity to file for extraordinary remedy.

Benda was also not satisfied, defending his behavior by claiming to have fired the gun in self-defense. The murdered driver was a Romani man, but the justice system does not believe the murder had a racial subtext.

"This was simply hasty, short-sighted behavior, a poorly-handled situation," the presiding judge of the appeals court senate, Martin Zelenka, said in August when explaining why the High Court had assessed the crime, unlike the Regional Court, as simple murder, not intentional murder. Benda faced between 10 and 18 years in prison on those charges.

The High Court gave him a sentence lower than the charges require because it took into account both Benda's lack of a criminal record and "a certain co-responsibility of the injured party." The incident happened on 27 May 2017 at about 3 AM near a block of prefabricated apartment buildings.

Benda's mother informed him that somebody was driving a car in such a way as to likely hit people. Benda looked out of his window, spotted a silver van, and was convinced that a crime was in progress. He loaded his legally-held firearm and ran out in front of the building where, without warning, he fired the entire chamber into the driver's cabin.

Of the 13 shots fired, eight struck the Romani man at the wheel, in his back, chest, and other place. The driver died as a consequence of the serious injuries sustained.

Benda was sober when he fired the gun and the victim was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana. At the time of the shooting the van was traveling at a walking pace and, according to footage from the security cameras on the housing estate, did not pose a danger to anybody, which is why the courts did not believe Benda fired in self-defense.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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