A man who spent 13 years in prison in Germany over the death of an elderly woman has been acquitted in a retrial by a court that determined the supposed murder victim had died in an accident.
BERLIN (Reuters) – A man who served 13 years in prison in Germany over the death of an elderly woman was acquitted in a retrial on Friday by a court that decided the presumed murder victim had died in an accident.
Manfred Gendetzky, 63, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2010 by a Munich court. Judges then ruled that he hit an 87-year-old woman on the head in October 2008 after an argument in her apartment in the upscale Bavarian lakeside town of Rotach-Egern and then drowned her in a bathtub.
Genditzky, who worked at the compound where the woman lived, always insisted he was innocent and unsuccessfully appealed the original verdict. A federal court ordered a retrial, which resulted in his conviction again in 2012.
He fought for years to have the case reopened and, last August, succeeded in securing his release.
Announcing the verdict in Munich State Court on Friday, Presiding Judge Elisabeth Earl told Genditzky, “I have heard the words I have spent nearly 14 years waiting for.” German news agency dpa said it said he would have to be compensated for the time wrongly spent in prison.
“We are sincerely sorry,” Earl said. She added that although it was not possible to determine why a mistake had occurred in previous legal proceedings, it seemed “as if some things were handled very one-sidedly and at the expense of Mr. Gendetzky” and there was “a backlog of mistakes.”
It was a bumpy road to justice, the judge said, that Genditsky walked with admirable patience. Genditsky calmly followed the ruling.
The court said it assumed the woman had died as a result of an accident. After hearing the experts at the retrial, she said that it was “not only possible, but probable,” and that there were no indications of murder.
The judges found that the woman likely fell into the bathtub while trying to do laundry or take a foot bath, and was unable to free herself – possibly because she was knocked unconscious and drowned.
Earlier this week, prosecutors called for Gendetzky to be acquitted. In his closing words at the trial, Genditsky said, “I would like to say once again that I am innocent. That’s all.”
Genditsky stormed out of the courtroom on Friday to applause but said he would not “jump for joy.”
“I have no reason to rejoice,” he said. “Fourteen years are gone.”
Persons unjustly imprisoned are entitled to €75 in compensation for each day in detention. In Gendetzky’s case, that would add up to €368,400 (about $400,000). In principle, he can also claim compensation for loss of income.
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