Construction worker acquitted in murder case

The Supreme Court has acquitted a 35-year-old Romanian of murder. The man has already been in prison for 1,552 days and will receive around CHF 200,000 in compensation.

During the questioning in the higher courtroom, the accused stoically repeated: “I will not answer.”

Ennio Leanza / Keystone

The conviction to 14 years in prison for murder had already been passed in April 2021 by the Horgen District Court with only a two-thirds majority of the three-member judges. A substitute judge had already wanted to acquit a 35-year-old Romanian construction worker of the charge of having killed a work colleague with 15 stab wounds. Your plan has now been implemented in the appeal process by the Supreme Court.

“We are a long way from proof of guilt,” said court chairman Christoph Spiess in the evening of the verdict consultation. The accused, who has been in custody for more than four years – a total of 1,552 days – has been awarded compensation of CHF 201,760; i.e. 130 francs per day. He was released immediately “due to the lack of urgent suspicion”.

Killed in his sleep with 15 stab wounds

On the morning of September 3, 2018, the body of a Romanian construction worker was found in a worker’s shelter in Saturday. He had been stabbed 15 times that night. Before the crime, there had been a dispute between him and the 35-year-old suspect in the living area of ​​the workshop hall. The man who was killed was a childhood friend and had even gotten the accused a job in Switzerland three months before the crime.

There are cell phone videos of part of the argument, showing two very drunk men insulting each other in Romanian. The court interpreter at the district court in Horgen had trouble understanding the babble and explained at the time: “It almost no longer sounds like the Romanian language.” In terms of content, it is about sexual practices with the mother of the other.

Then there was a fight: The accused is said to have received around ten punches on the head from the man who was later killed. After the fight, the superior retreated to the kitchen, wrapped himself in a sheet and fell asleep. Someone later went into the kitchen and killed the man. The first stitch was applied across the side of his face. Further stitches injured the pericardium, lungs and other organs; seven stings were life-threatening according to the opinion of the Institute for Forensic Medicine.

Murder weapon gone

The kitchen door was locked from the outside and had to be broken open in the morning. The murder weapon and the key to the door have disappeared to this day. For prosecutor Adrian Kaegi, the killing is a clear act of revenge by the accused for the humiliation of the beating. He speaks of “one of the most perfidious and unscrupulous” murders of his long career. He applies again, as before the lower court, a conviction for murder, 20 years imprisonment and 15 years exile. The man had been expelled from the country for 13 years by the district court.

The 35-year-old Romanian was silent in the investigation, was silent in the first-instance hearing, and even in the trial before the Supreme Court, he only stoically repeated the sentence translated by the interpreter to all questions: “I will not answer.” He also gives no personal information. Only in his closing remarks does he briefly explain that he is innocent and does not want to go to prison for a crime he did not commit. The dead man was his best friend.

His silence was criticized both by public prosecutor Kaegi and by private prosecutor Christoph Erdös in their pleadings. And the court clerk Beata Wasser-Keller followed up twice and wanted to know why he didn’t provide any information. “I’m not answering,” he says. The tactics of defense attorney Oliver Grundmann, who demanded a full acquittal and no fewer than 13 additional requests for evidence, paid off in the end.

Incredible witness

The court evaluates the statements of a third construction worker who was present at the drinking bout and the brawl as “contradictory and unbelievable”. He had a tendency to incriminate the accused whenever possible. An alleged threat by the accused against the dead man cannot be created and the motive for revenge cannot be substantiated. After all, the person who was killed was a childhood friend of the accused.

The accused is said to have sent a chat message to his girlfriend in Romanian on the night of the crime: “If I don’t answer tomorrow, I’ve killed someone.” Spiess explains that this news is a “phantom”, it only exists from hearsay. A DNA trace of the suspect at a puncture site of the fitted sheet can also be explained by the fact that the sheet had been lying around in the common room for a long time and had been touched by the suspect on other occasions.

In general, almost 20 people would have had access to the crime scene, Spiess said. Other men could also be considered for the crime, a completely different, unknown motive for the crime is possible. No one was in a hurry to call the police after the bloody crime, and cocaine was also found upstairs. In this situation, an acquittal is inevitable.

Judgment SB210555 of 12/02/2022, not yet final.

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