Only one hour was scheduled for the 5th day of the trial against the alleged assassin of Halle on August 03, 2020. A forensic expert report on the accused’s self-made weapons was read out and a self-reading procedure for various documents was ordered by the presiding judge Mertens, which was criticized by several representatives of the co-plaintiffs.
At the last session before a three-week break in the trial, the courtroom was relatively empty. First, an expert opinion was read out, which dealt with the results of the ballistic examination of the weapons and the speed measurement of the projectiles. The subject of the investigation consisted of three self-made firearms of the accused. The weapons from the defendant’s own construction had been compared with commercially available comparative weapons from the collection of the Federal Criminal Police Office. The expert report concluded that all examined weapons had the potential to cause fatal injuries. While the determined effect was in some cases lower than that of standard customary weapons, it was nevertheless found to be in the same range of effect in two out of three weapons.
After a recess of 20 minutes, the presiding judge gave the participants a chance to comment on the planned self-reading procedure. According to § 249 of the German Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO), documents can be either read out or ordered for self-reading procedure in order to make them part of the trial’s recorded evidence.
Attorney Hoffmann then read out a statement of attorney von der Behrens, who could not be present herself: The intended scope of the self-reading procedure raises considerable concerns, since it includes essential investigative results, for example, regarding the financing of the alleged crime or the ideology of the accused. According to the statement, the extensive self-reading procedure would devalue the trial as the core of the criminal proceedings, in which the question of crime and guilt is posed. In addition, the principle of publicity would be affected, since the public could not exercise its function of control. The statement also points to the increased public interest in information due to the racist and antisemitic nature of the crime. Furthermore, attorney von der Behrens points out that so far, relevant findings have been almost exclusively discussed only by the accused and the interrogators. Therefore, it is even more important to introduce objective investigative results in the public hearing. Several co-plaintiffs joined the statement.
Furthermore, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, represented by Senior Public Prosecutor Schmidt, also commented on the self-reading procedure. He stated that there were no concerns on part of the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office regarding the order of the self-reading procedure. Schmidt emphasized that the order did not mean that essential parts of the main trial would be withheld, as parallel to the self-reading procedure, one would have to consider the summoning of witnesses.
Subsequently, the presiding judge ordered the self-reading procedure with reference to § 249 StPO. She explained that the order of the self-reading procedure did not exclude evidence, which is regarded as particularly relevant from being read out at the main hearing additionally. She added, that requests and suggestions in this respect would be welcomed at any time.
At the end of the hearing, the presiding judge announced that she already scheduled further court sessions in November as a precaution. A verdict is therefore not to be expected before November at the earliest.