Did the murderer of Sarah Halimi benefit from a “legal vacuum”?

The model of postcards sent to Emmanuel Macron demanding justice for Sarah Halimi – Israelite Consistory of Haut-Rhin

  • Sarah Halimi was defenestrated by her neighbor in April 2017 under the helpless eye of her neighbors.
  • The author of the facts, Kobili Traoré, suffered according to psychiatric experts from an “acute delusional puff”.
  • On April 14, the Court of Cassation confirmed the criminal irresponsibility of Kobili Traoré.

There will therefore be, as claimed by nearly 26,000 demonstrators across France on Sunday, a “Sarah Halimi” law. Almost four years after the murder of this sixty-year-old Jewish woman, beaten up and then defenestrated by her neighbor, the Minister of Justice announced that he would present, at the end of May, in the Council of Ministers, an evolution of the legislation on irresponsibility. criminal. Eric Dupond-Moretti intends to fill a “legal void” after the judgment taken on April 14 by the Court of Cassation confirming the abolition of the judgment of the murderer, Kobili Traoré. An incomprehensible decision in the eyes of the relatives of the victim who recall that these psychological disorders result in part from his consumption – voluntary – of cannabis. Argument swept away by the Sages: the penal code does not make a distinction on the origin of the disorder which led to the abolition of discernment. It is therefore on this point that the government wishes to legislate.

A reminder, first of all: in France, we do not judge fools. It is even one of the keystones of our legal system. Already in 1810, the Penal Code specified that there is “neither crime nor misdemeanor, when the defendant was in a state of insanity at the time of the action”. Until 2008, when a person was considered as such, the procedure ended with a dismissal order. From now on, a hearing takes place before the investigating chamber, with the possibility of appealing as was the case in this case. “These hearings are a way of acknowledging the facts, of taking the victims into account,” says the president of the Union Syndicale des Magistrates, Céline Parisot. While this is not a proper trial, these hearings leave room for debate. In this case, Kobili Traoré was thus clearly identified as the author of the murder of Sarah Halimi and the aggravating circumstance of anti-Semitism retained.

A “psychotic process already underway”

However, the seven psychiatric experts who looked into this case were unanimous: the murderer was suffering, at the time of the facts, from an “acute delusional puff”. They also agree that cannabis – Kobili Traoré smoked about fifteen joints a day for 15 years – has accentuated this disorder. It is on the consequences of such consumption that they oppose: for the spawner of the psychiatric expertise, Daniel Zagury, his “voluntary and regular” consumption makes him partially responsible for his act. Two other colleges of experts believe that he was unaware of the hallucinogenic effects of this drug and spoke in favor of criminal irresponsibility. “At the time of the facts, his free will was null,” insists the second college.

Contrary to what some commentators have suggested, it is not enough to consume drugs or drink alcohol to be declared criminally irresponsible. “Cannabis has only worsened the psychotic process already underway”, write the psychiatrists of the first college. Clearly, the experts do not speak here of a “drunkenness” related to drug taking but of a worsening of a mental disorder. Consequently, could a legislative change have led to another outcome in this dossier? “To tell the truth, I do not even see a legal vacuum since in this case, the irresponsibility is not only linked to the taking of narcotics but to a mental disorder aggravated by this consumption”, notes Céline Parisot, who denounces a announcement linked to the emotion aroused by this affair. And to insist: “To legislate in the heat of the moment and under the pressure of a demonstration, that is what is worst. “

“Not necessary” to change the law

The announcement of this bill comes even though a report, commissioned by the previous Minister of Justice and delivered in February, considers “unanimously” that the current text is “balanced”. Including “in the hypothesis of voluntary absorption” of drugs or alcohol resulting in the abolition of discernment because “the intention must exist at the time of the criminal act”, specifies the authors. “The whole question is whether we want to judge someone who was not aware of his actions,” insists the president of the Union Syndicale des Magistrates.

The experts, who have noted a sharp increase over the past ten years in cases closed for this reason *, nevertheless provide several suggestions for improvements, in particular on better taking into account of civil parties or an extension of security measures. At present, Kobili Traoré is subject to full compulsory hospitalization in a psychiatric environment and security measures for 20 years. To get out of it, two psychiatrists outside the establishment where he is accommodated must establish that the thirty-something is no longer dangerous for him or for others.

* Between 2018, 13,495 cases were dismissed and 326 dismissal orders were issued for criminal irresponsibility

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