Czech trial continues of racially motivated attack on Romani family in their home
In mid-February the trial resumed of a man who has been charged with committing racially motivated grievous bodily harm, violence against an ethnic group and individuals, illegal drug production, trespassing, property destruction and making threats under the influence of addictive substances. News server Romea.cz has previously reported on this case here.
We will be reporting on the continuation of this proceedings without referring to any names, as the family who was attacked does not want any publicity. The incident occurred at the end of last March, when a 40-year-old man attacked a Romani family who were his neighbors.
The perpetrator forced his way into the family's home and, in front of the eyes of their young children and 17-year-old daughter, first attacked a woman his own age and then her father. While both of the women managed to jump out of a window in the children's room to seek shelter with neighbors, the man suffered a worse fate.
The male victim's brain injuries are so serious that the court cannot summon him as a witness. The victim does not remember anything of the event (according to the police protocol he only recalls waking up in the hospital) and does not know the defendant.
The defendant has apologized to the victims and sent them a significant amount of money as a down payment on their compensation, but he has not confessed to committing the crime. During the first hearing last December he testified that he does not know what happened on the day in question.
According to the defendant's testimony, all he can recall is that he was at home all night getting drunk on beer and rum and smoking marijuana. In the morning he set out to find items that had allegedly been stolen from his home the day before.
After attacking the family, the man returned home, changed his clothes, and returned to the scene of the crime, where a police patrol was waiting for him. He was arrested and taken to the police station, where he threw up and collapsed.
The man asked to be transferred to a psychiatric treatment facility, which he was, and from there he was placed in custody in prison. Last December the woman he assaulted testified in court, as did her daughter, who had been in an advanced stage of pregnancy when she jumped out of the window to escape.
The daughter gave birth to a baby boy the very next day, who fortunately is healthy. To this day the family does not understand how it could have occurred to the defendant to look for his missing valuables in their home, as they have lived in the building for dozens of years and are considered a decent family by their other neighbors.
At the February hearing, two craftsmen who had been conducting an inspection of the chimney on the building across the street at the time of the crime testified in court. The witness who was a chimney sweep got only a partial glimpse of what happened.
At the critical moment, the chimney sweep said he had been standing in front of the building together with the superintendent and a Ukrainian worker, smoking and waiting for the building owner, who was supposed to bring them a missing key. "I saw a man drive up in a car, smash in a window and go inside," he testified.
The chimney sweep said he did not turn around until he heard the glass pane of the window breaking and saw a man whom he assumed had broken it disappearing through the front door. "Then I heard nothing, but shortly thereafter a lady jumped out of a window, ran to the next building and shouted to another lady there to call the police," said the chimney sweep, who also testified that after seeing this, he had simply returned to his work.
In his testimony, the Ukrainian worker first confirmed that he had come the scene to help inspect the chimney. He testified that while he was talking with the building superintendent on the sidewalk, a car drove up, a man jumped out, broke a window in the building across the way and then entered it.
The Ukrainian witness could not see what the man was doing once he was inside the building. He did see a young woman suddenly jump out of a window calling for help, at which point he said the building superintendent called the police.
Shortly after that, another woman whose head was bleeding jumped out of the window together with a child. She shouted that some guy had beaten her and the children inside the house; she then hid with the children in the building where the Ukrainian witness and the chimney sweep were inspecting the chimney.
The main contribution of the Ukrainian worker's testimony was his claim that the man from the car had not seemed either drunk or strongly under the influence of drugs, which is the defendant's claim. His attorney says the defendant is a psychopath whose cognitive function was significantly reduced at the time of the crime ,when he went berserk.
Experts: The defendant was capable of understanding what he was doing
A medical expert presented the conclusions of his expert evaluation to the court: The older male victim has suffered extensive head injuries caused by violence, during which the perpetrator may have used a blunt object. Some of the blows were struck with such intensity that the man's life was at risk.
Since there was inter-cranial bleeding of the brain, the injuries may have permanent consequences. The attack on the woman, which involved moderate force, happened to cause her only slight injuries but could have caused her more serious ones.
The court heard that the laceration to the woman's head could have been caused either by a blunt object or by falling onto something with a sharp edge, such as a table. An expert in the field of psychiatry who treated the defendant at the psychiatric treatment facility then testified that the defendant was not suffering from any serious personality disorder, just from a mild form of one with features of emotional instability and immaturity.
The psychiatric expert said she believed the man's disorder had not reduced his capacity to control himself or to recognize what was happening at the time of the crime, which means he had been able to recognize the danger posed by his behavior. The defendant was also in a state of light to moderate drunkenness at the time.
It is also possible that the defendant was intoxicated by marijuana, but because that drug remains in the blood for a longer time after being consumed, it was not possible to say whether he had actually ingested it just before committing the crime. The expert said she believed the defendant had used a prescription medicine together with alcohol prior to committing the crime, even though he had to have known of the eventual consequences of doing so.
The psychiatric expert testified that the defendant's release on his own recognizance posed no danger to society. She also said she believed outpatient treatment would suffice to treat his risky use of alcohol.
Defendant: "I don't want to be released"
During the hearing, the panel of judges also reviewed the defense's request for the defendant to be released from custody. The defendant himself, however, has expressed an interest in remaining in custody, alleging that he is afraid of the victims' family.
During his testimony in December, the defendant said the family had never harmed him, but that he had believed his stolen items might be in their home. He has apologized for this several times, including in writing.
The defendant also alleged that while he was in custody, the son of the male victim threatened to kill him after he is released, sending the message through a Romani fellow prisoner. Even though the law does not mention such threats as a reason for keeping someone in custody, the judge agreed to the defendant's proposal, justifying his decision by saying that experts believe the defendant is suffering from severe depression that could result in his re-offending.
According to an evaluation by an expert commissioned by the court to review the harm caused to the female victim, she is suffering from moderate post-traumatic stress. For that reason, the defendant may also eventually stand trial for grievous bodily harm in her case as well; the current indictment qualifies the attack on the woman only as racially motivated violence against a group or individual.
At the close of the hearing, the judge read into the record the official police report about the testimony provided by the superintendent of the building across the street from the scene of the crime. That witness said he saw a Romani woman who was bleeding jump out of a window with two children, shouting that someone inside wanted to kill them.
Another expert in clinical psychology has yet to testify and was on vacation. The next hearing will take place on 13 March after his return.
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