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Biased judges Trial of murdered prison therapist to start from scratch

The defendant first appeared before the court on October 3, 2016

(Keystone)

The trial of a prisoner accused of killing his therapist near Geneva has been halted and the judges dismissed after it was ruled that they unfairly discredited testimony favourable to the defendant. As a result, the trial will start again from scratch.

Two years ago, the suspect was serving a 20-year sentence for two rape convictions when his therapist, a 34-year-old woman, accompanied him alone to an arranged horse-riding therapy session. She was later found dead in a forest near Geneva. The suspect is believed to have slit her throat with a knife that he requested they buy to clean horses’ hooves.  

The trial, which began on October 3 in Geneva, was thrown out on Friday because the judges were ruled to have mistreated and discredited French psychiatric experts whose testimony was favourable to the defendant. 

According to the Le Temps newspaper, the psychiatrists refused to issue a bleak long-term prognosis for the defendant, which would have paved the way for him to be locked up for life. The judges discredited that testimony, which prompted the defendant’s legal team to argue bias against him and call for a new trial. 

“All of this court’s actions are annulled and the trial will have to resume from scratch,” Yann Arnold, the defendant’s lawyer, told Le Temps. 

The court's move was confirmed by a Geneva cantonal justice spokesman on Friday.

Prison policies questioned 

The case has made waves in Switzerland over prisons’ treatment of dangerous criminals and whether Geneva’s La Pâquerette prison unit, where the man was being held, acted irresponsibly. The therapist who was killed had accompanied other inmates to therapy sessions hundreds of times without incident.  

A formal investigation concluded that the suspect should not have been allowed to leave the prison. Geneva’s cantonal parliament also called for a parliamentary investigatory committee to look into the government’s role in the incident, but that report has been delayed several times, most recently until later this month.  

The director of the Geneva office responsible for crime sentencing was also demoted as a result of the incident, but a panel reversed the demotion at the beginning of this month because they found no sign of wrongdoing on her part. 

Since the therapist’s murder, the prison’s security director must personally approve every trip outside the prison by a dangerous inmate.  

The La Pâquerette unit of the Geneva prison system no longer exists; it was closed after the therapist’s murder and replaced with a new unit named “Curabilis”.  

The trial took place under tight security because of the outcry and high emotions that followed the crime. 

No date has been given for the start of the new trial, although the Geneva cantonal justice spokesman said it was possible that it might take place in 2017.

swissinfo.ch and agencies, vdv

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