Alcohol killed Jesus

What if you kill while you are drugged?

A rich gallery owner beats his friend to death in a drug intoxication. He says he killed him madly. A case that pushes the judiciary to its limits.

The young man looks like an oversized child. His face does not reveal any emotions. Neither did he; the 31-year-old gallery owner is silent, even when the judge asks question after question. Perhaps his lawyers have told him that he has already talked too much. Because in previous interrogations, the accused told this and other times.

At first he wanted to have deliberately acted in self defense. Then he said he was delusional while on drugs. His friend Alex has turned into a green alien with long ears and red eyes who wanted to kill him. So he first almost beat the friend to death and then strangled him. In a brutal way.

It is December 30, 2014, around five in the morning. Snow envelops the city in a quiet white when a taxi drives the gallery owner and his 23-year-old friend Alex from his apartment in the center of Zurich to his father's villa in Küsnacht, who has been away from home. The two have a lot to do; Cocaine, alcohol and the anesthetic pain reliever ketamine, which is popular as a party drug.

This is common in the rich children's circles on Zurich's Gold Coast, in which the two move. The gallery owner spends 1,000 francs a month on drugs, 4,000 francs rent his apartment, and 5,000 francs pocket money a month on his credit card; everything is paid for by the father, an art dealer.

Protocol of a slaughter

What exactly is going on in his villa that December night will probably remain in the dark forever. It is unclear whether there is really an argument that revolves around Swedish folk music - or whether they want to quit drugs. It is a claim by the gallery owner that the much slimmer Alex attacked him and pushed him onto the coffee table.

One thing is clear: Alex dies that night because the gallery owner repeatedly hits his head with a massive candlestick and a gold sculpture, stuffs a candle into his throat and chokes him to death. Then the gallery owner calls the police and says that Alex wanted to kill him.

The list of injuries to the victim fills two pages of the indictment; it is the record of a slaughter. The perpetrator had a cut on his little finger.

It's not about the question
whether the gallery owner his
Killed boyfriend Alex - it's about whether he knew what he was doing.

Now the almost two meter tall man sits in Meilen in the courtroom and refuses to testify. Many others speak for it. His case is challenging for the court. Because it's not about the question of whether the gallery owner killed his friend Alex - that is undisputed - it's about whether he knew what he was doing. Or whether he killed in a psychotic madness, triggered by drugs, and was therefore not at fault.

"Anyone who sees pictures of the crime scene knows that this must have been directed by madness," says his defense lawyer. But was it really guiltless killing?

No guilt, no punishment

It is legally possible. Because Swiss criminal law is based on guilt: the focus is not on the result of an act, but on the intent of the perpetrator. That is why anyone who shot at a person without hitting him can also be punished; because the perpetrator wanted to kill the person.

And that is why whoever was not able at the moment of the act to recognize the injustice of his act or to act according to this insight remains unpunished. Because where there is no guilt, there must be no punishment.

But judging whether someone was incompetent during the act is difficult. And additional questions arise when the perpetrator has put himself in this state; be it with the consumption of drugs or large amounts of alcohol.

Only last September, the Meilen District Court dealt with a similar case with a less dramatic outcome: A man had announced that he wanted to dismember his sister, he had called her and threatened her that he would go to her and kill her.

The man was not found guilty for this; the psychiatrist concluded that the accused had uttered the threats under delusional beliefs caused by a mixture of alcohol, medication and cannabis. The judges ordered inpatient treatment in a psychiatric clinic.

Two weeks earlier, the Zurich District Court came to a different conclusion on a similar question: It sentenced a Somali to six and a half years imprisonment for arson and grievous bodily harm - although he allegedly did not remember the act and she was under the influence of alcohol, cannabis, Crystal meth and an amphetamine. The court attested him a reduced, but not complete, insanity.

The Federal Supreme Court has also dealt several times with the question of incapacity in connection with alcohol, especially in the case of road traffic offenses. It emphasizes that not only the alcohol concentration in the blood is decisive, but also the factual situation and the personality of the perpetrator must always be taken into account.

As a “rough guide”, the Federal Supreme Court stated that “with a blood alcohol concentration of less than 2 per mille there is generally no impairment of the culpability, while with a blood alcohol concentration of 3 per mille and above, there is usually an incapacity.

In February, a Freiburg court tried the case of a man who had attacked five people in Tafers with a knife while he was intoxicated. The court admitted that he was so drunk that he no longer knew what he was doing.

He was not acquitted of any guilt, however: the court sentenced him "for committing an act in self-inflicted insanity". Which means: He is not punished for the attack with the knife, but for having drunk himself into a state in which he was not guilty.

«What I did
I'm so sorry. I would do anything to undo it
to do that, you can
trust me."

In the case of the gallery owner who killed his friend, the court will have to choose one of several possible scenarios. First and foremost there is the question: Did he kill in a furious frenzy or was the accused really delusional and thus not guilty?

And if the latter is true: Did he consciously put himself into this state, although he should or could have known that it would pose a danger to others as a result?

"Answering these questions is extremely difficult even for experts," says the Freiburg criminal law professor Marcel Niggli. "You can hardly say how it really was - you can only say how it could have been."

Rape charge

A decisive factor will be how the judges assess the incidents that occurred before the night of death. In 2011, the gallery owner had threatened his father heavily under drugs because he believed he was an evil wizard. He was admitted to a psychiatric clinic, where he was explicitly warned about the increased risk of psychosis when using ketamine.

He is also charged with assaulting his ex-fiancée. In July 2014, he wanted to push the woman out of a moving taxi while on a drug intoxication in Ibiza. In October 2014, he brutally raped her in London. The accused denies this.

It is Friday evening when the trial week in Meilen comes to an end. The defense lawyers pleaded that the accused was innocent when he killed his friend. He was only to be convicted for having driven himself into this state of madness through drug use, and was to be sent to inpatient addiction therapy.

The public prosecutor applied for a prison sentence of 16, 13 or 10 years for intentional homicide, for sexual assault, rape and attempted homicide of the ex-fiancé, depending on the assessment of criminal liability.

The last word belongs to the accused. And suddenly he does speak. “I'm so sorry for what I did. I would do anything to undo it, believe me. " Two sentences. The verdict is not expected before the end of June.

What is in the law

Section 19.1: If at the time of the act the perpetrator was not able to see the injustice of his act or to act according to this insight, he is not liable to prosecution.

Section 263.1: Anyone who is insane as a result of self-inflicted drunkenness or anesthesia and who in this state commits an act threatened as a crime or misdemeanor is punished with a fine of up to 180 daily rates.

Section 263.2: If the perpetrator in this self-inflicted state has committed a crime threatened with imprisonment as the only punishment, the penalty is imprisonment of up to three years or a fine.