Vom Totschlag zur Strafvereitelung

From manslaughter to obstruction of justice – successful defence by MPP before Göttingen Regional Court

On 16.01.2024, lawyer Karl-Heinz Mügge was able to achieve a major defence success before the Göttingen Regional Court.

In the manslaughter trial for the Ukrainian man killed in May 2023, the defendant represented by lawyer Mügge was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for obstruction of justice, the execution of which was suspended – although the public prosecutor’s office had charged him with joint manslaughter.

Even for experienced criminal defence lawyers, the defence of capital offences regularly presents a particular challenge. Developing a comprehensive, individual defence strategy is extremely important.

On the one hand, this is due to the high threat of punishment for manslaughter offences (e.g. life imprisonment for a murder offence, five years to life imprisonment in the case of manslaughter or 10 years to life imprisonment in the case of robbery resulting in death).

On the other hand, there is also the investigative pressure that the prosecution authorities are regularly under in the case of a homicide offence. For example, there are cases in which the accused are literally pressurised into making a statement by the investigating officers.

In such cases, experienced defence lawyers advise their clients all the more to make use of their right to remain silent – usually not only in the preliminary proceedings, but also in the main hearing before the sentencing court.

However, in view of the individual circumstances of each case, such an approach is not appropriate for every client. Rather, each constellation requires a specially developed defence strategy that does not ignore the possibility of actively involving the client in the proceedings.

In the case of the man who was killed in May 2023, for example, a very atypical defence strategy was required. After intensive discussion and preparation, lawyer Mügge allowed the defendant to make a detailed statement on the allegations of the offence before the regional court in December 2023 – with success!

The verdict clearly shows that it was worth taking the risk of the defendant making an independent statement and thus waiving his right to remain silent. On the last day of the trial, both the defence and the public prosecutor’s office, the joint plaintiff and the jury agreed that no act of murder by the defendant could be proven.

The client was only convicted of obstruction of justice because he helped the perpetrator – after the latter had repeatedly threatened him – to leave the country and hide the body.

After the verdict, the defendant was able to leave the court as a free man after seven and a half months in custody.

Another defendant in these proceedings was successfully represented by lawyer Dr Anthea Pitschel last summer. The Göttingen public prosecutor’s office was also investigating him for manslaughter. Following a successful appeal against arrest, Dr Pitschel not only managed to have the man released from custody, but also to have the preliminary proceedings dropped due to a lack of sufficient suspicion.

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