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Berlin drag racers sentenced to life in prison

March 26, 2019

Two men have been sentenced to life imprisonment for a second time after killing a pensioner in an illegal car race. The first murder verdicts had been overturned last year by Germany's top court.

Speedometer showing speed in excess of 180 kph
Image: picture alliance/chromorange/Bilderbox

A regional court in Berlin on Tuesday handed down life-terms at the retrial of two men involved in a deadly race in 2016.

The first murder verdicts in a German illegal car-racing trial were overturned last year by the Federal Court of Justice (BGH), which ruled there had been insufficient evidence of an intention to kill.  

The renewed ruling

The presiding judge found there was sufficient evidence to suggest the suspects had shown "willful intent," saying:

  • "What happened had nothing to do with negligence."
  • "The accused had trivially played with the lives of others."
  • The racers were "reckless" and had "revered their vehicles."

The verdict met with state prosecutors' demands.

What happened during the 2017 trial?

Marvin N. was found to have initially refused to participate in the illegal race. He had stopped at two red lights and had shown remorse. The judge said Marvin N. was "less guilty" than his co-defendant, Hamdi H., but that German law required him to sentence both culprits to life in prison. 

Murder sentence in German car racing trial

Berlin battlefield

In 2016, the two men aged 24 and 27 staged a spontaneous race along Berlin's famous Kurfürstendamm boulevard that saw them reach speeds of up to 170 kilometers per hour (106.5 mph). Hamdi H.'s car slammed into the vehicle driven by the victim — a widower, retired doctor and father-of-two — killing him and hurling his car 72 meters along the street. Bits of wreckage were strewn everywhere. The judge said a forensic expert who had testified at the trial had described the scene of the accident as "a field of rubble" that resembled a "battlefield." The two defendants and a passenger in Marvin N.'s car were only slightly injured in the accident.

Far-reaching consequences: The German Criminal Code will now see the addition of paragraph 315d, which states that "death caused by illegal car races" will be punished by up to ten years in jail. The new sentence could not be applied retrospectively to the landmark case.

Editor's note: DW follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and urges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.  

Reporter - German police take on illegal car racing

kw/rt (dpa, AFP)

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