'Crime scene: The murderer in me': Why doesn't the perpetrator have to go to prison?

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Writed by - Andy Gocker
"Tatort: Der Mörder in mir": Warum muss der Täter nicht ins Gefängnis?
Lannert (Richy Müller) and Bootz (Felix Klare, r.) looking for reliable statements about the cause of death. © SWR Presse/Bildkommunikation, SpotOn

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The Stuttgart 'crime scene: the murderer in me' ends abruptly. For some viewers maybe even too abrupt. Why is the perpetrator convicted now? Why is murder suddenly off the table? And why does everything depend on what the neighbor said? Why would the testimony of Laura Rensing allow for a murder charge and why does Ben Dellien get off with a light sentence without this testimony?

The crucial question behind this real dilemma: In the case of murder, the legislature provides for life imprisonment - without exception. In the case of a conviction for attempted murder by omission - which is usually pronounced in such cases of fatal traffic accidents with a hit-and-run - the perpetrator is still regularly sentenced to sensitive prison terms of several years.

In the case of negligent homicide, on the other hand, it is often different. In these cases, the court even has the option of imposing a fine and waiving imprisonment altogether. This discrepancy is huge: a long prison sentence destroys livelihoods. A fine is much easier to cope with in many cases. But how exactly are the distinctions made?

And why no murder charges in 'The Murderers Within Me'?

Theoretically, a conviction for attempted murder in this fatal hit-and-run accident is possible - if it can be shown that the perpetrator knew or had to assume that he hit a person. For example, real courts have found attempted homicide by omission in similar cases. In a case from 2015, for example, the Regional Court of Stuttgart ruled that a woman accepted that someone died as a result of her failure to provide assistance.

The judges found the concealment of a criminal offense to be a characteristic of murder, since the driver did not want to be caught by leaving the scene of the accident. Everything similar to 'Tatort'. But unlike in the real case, Dellien didn't have any serious damage to his own vehicle in 'The Murder Inside'. Thus, a court might not be able to assume that the lawyer's damaged vehicle alone meant that he knew he was hitting a human in every case. The court would have to prove that to him.

Mr. Dellien will probably remain a free man

That seems almost impossible unless Ms. Rensing testifies: only she could confirm that Mr. Dellien had the victim's cap in his possession and thus knew he hit a human. But the perpetrator will not admit any of this in court. Thus, realistically, only a comparatively mild conviction for involuntary manslaughter would remain: Mr. Dellien would most likely remain a free man.

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