Justice on demand

On October 1 and 2, 2014 Saint Petersburg city court considered legal appeals on two separate cases, in which the prosecuted were accused (among other things) of violations described in Article 111 Section 4 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (serious harm which resulted in death of a person). The cases of two former police officers, who were charged with torturing Denis Vyrzhykovsky in custody, which had resulted in the death of this person two weeks after, and the case of Zhanna Lakatosz, who was sentenced to 10 years and 1 month of prison for supposedly inflicting physical damage to a 1,5 year old child, which resulted in his death. In the case of police officers, the court ruled that their guilt had not been proven and discharged them of the charges in inflicting serious physical damage which resulted in death. However, in the case of Zhanna Lakatosz the same court ruled to keep previous sentence intact, while the appeals by the defenders were left without satisfaction.

As we reported earlier, the case of Zhanna Lakatosz features a considerable number of arguments for over-ruling the previous sentence or, at the very least, re-consideration of some of the charges in this case. But the procurator’s office during the court hearings concerning the appeal stated that the previous “court ruling was made on fully legal grounds and thus is not subject to overruling and the claims by the defense are not grounded” in spite of the fact that the sentence subjected a person for 10-year prison sentence for a crime she could not have committed since at the time of the crime she had been detained for three days already.

Let us compare the arguments of the defense in these two cases. According to press reports, the lawyers of police officers in the case concerning the death of Denis Vyrzhykovsky stated that the former didn’t have a need to torture the deceased and his partner, because the latter made written testimonies in the police station concerning their involvement in swindling and the sale of stolen things. Police officer Ilya Galchuk, former head of a district department in saint Petersburg, who had been charged in this case, stated in an interview to NTV channel that Vyrzhykovsky had arrived to the hospital in a state of epileptic attack and no body bruises had been detected on him. It seems that the arguments which had not been accepted by the court of first instance, nevertheless were accepted by the court of second instance as well grounded.

Let us now have a look now at the arguments considered by the court in case of Zhanna Lakatosz. At the time of the crime for which Zhanna Lakatosz was charged, she had been in detention for third day already (on charges of theft), but the court paid no attention to this fact. The victim in this case, mother of a boy who had been killed, stated in court that she didn’t believe Zhanna Lakatosz to be guilty and that she had left her child with Zhanna on numerous occasions before. During the court hearings the witness of the crime Andrey L. (the only person in a position to say what was the reason for burn scars found on the feet of the killed boy) refused to confirm the testimonies he had given earlier at the stage of investigation. He argued that he was afraid of the murderer of the child and during the court hearings he testified against Alexander Dyerd, who, according to the defense, was the real perpetrator of the crime. The main witness for the prosecution, Itsa Tonto, in her testimonies stated that she had seen Zhanna Lakatosz beating the child through the window of Zhanna’s house, but the witness for the defense – an ethnographer, who had been studying this Roma settlement, had proven by the photos he had presented that the houses in this Roma settlement never had windows.

There may have been some procedural violations in the case of Denis Vyrzhykovsky (one has to study the materials of the case in order to be able to state with certainty that this was the case), but at least it’s obvious that the witness for the prosecution, who had testified against the police officers, was present in court and the defense of police officers had an opportunity to question him before the judge. But the defense of Zhanna Lakatosz was deprived of such possibility and after the lawyer made a protest about this, the judges disregarded this protest. One is free to judge what could have been the possible reasons for these positions adopted by judges in these two cases, but the fact is obvious – ex-police officers, who earlier had been sentenced for 5 years, will be freed in one year maximum, while Zhanna Lakatosz is to stay in prison for the next 10 years.

ADC “Memorial” intends to continue representing interests of Zhanna Lakatosz in the European Court for Human Rights.

by Piotr Krasnov


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