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Convicted gunman: How did the delusion affect the crime?

Photo: Harald Tittel / dpa

The trial of the killing spree in Trier with five dead must be reopened in parts. By a decision of the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Karlsruhe, the judgment of the Trier Regional Court was largely overturned due to errors of law. Thus, the defendant's appeal was granted, the BGH announced on Monday.

The Regional Court had not justified its assumption that the defendant had acted in a state of considerably reduced culpability without making legal errors. Thus, the decisions on the legal consequences, i.e. the life sentence, should also be annulled.

2022 verdict: Life sentence for multiple murder

During the rampage on December 1, 2020, a man had raced through Trier's pedestrian zone with his off-road vehicle and had deliberately hit passers-by. Five people died in the attack, including a baby. In addition, dozens of people were injured and traumatized.

The perpetrator had been sentenced to life imprisonment in August 2022 for multiple murder and multiple attempted murder before the Trier Regional Court. The court also noted the particular gravity of the guilt and ordered the man to be placed in a closed psychiatric hospital.

According to the expert, the man suffers from paranoid schizophrenia with bizarre delusions - and is therefore less culpable. The trained electrician has remained silent about the allegations during the one-year trial. One day after the verdict, the defense attorney of the gunman had filed an appeal.

BGH: Unclear how the illness affected the crime

The BGH does not doubt that the man committed the crime and how it took place. In his order, however, he criticized the reasons for the judgment of the Regional Court with regard to the inner state of the convicted person at the time of the crime. There was insufficient evidence that the man, while committing the crime, was significantly impaired in his culpability. It was not clear to the BGH how the man's clinical picture had affected his options for action during the crime.

In addition, the district court had not paid sufficient attention to the fact that the man was drunk during the crime: Two hours after the crime, he had a blood alcohol level of 1.12 per thousand. The two aspects – his mental disorder and alcohol – had been considered individually, but there was a lack of an overall view.

The BGH also criticized other aspects of the verdict: In the new trial, the court must better examine whether the man intentionally killed individual victims. The BGH also did not consider the murder characteristic of "killing by means dangerous to the public" to be sufficiently justified.