Pierre Goldman Affair 1974

Pierre Goldman is Sentenced to Life Imprisonment

Source: Le Monde, December 15-16, 1974;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2007.

After ten hours and forty minutes of deliberation on Saturday December 14 at ten minutes past midnight, Pierre Goldman was sentenced with the benefit of attenuating circumstances, to life imprisonment by the Paris Assize court, presided over by M. André Braunschweig.

The indescribable upset, the long swell of fury and true despair that followed the pronouncing of the condemnation of Pierre Goldman was nothing but the joining together of the cries of men and women who were silent during the five days of the trial some of whom, because of the decision, were made to feel closer to the condemned man than they ever would have thought on Monday December 9, the first day of the trial.

In the eyes of those who faithfully remained standing during the debates- lawyers and public both -nothing can really justify a condemnation that only a collective decision permitted, i.e., the absence of personal responsibility.

In a trial from which all political allusions were banished it is uncommon, if not unprecedented, for a unanimous public, almost a crowd, one where the young were not alone, for regulars and neophytes to shout with one voice: “Jurors assassins!” ‘Racists!” For them to chant “Innocent, Innocent!” about an accused against whom nothing, in the fullest sense of the word, was proved.

Nor is it common for lawyers – ignoring the orders the magistrate gave the clerk that the protestors should be identified – to shout their disgust in the direction of the court in unambiguous terms. It isn’t common for an advocate general to declare himself “saddened” by having obtained what he’d demanded.

At the civil hearing for the fixing of damages it isn’t common for one of the defense lawyers to tearfully answer the magistrate’s statement. Even Police Sergeant Quinet, seriously wounded during the double murder at the pharmacy on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir, blanched at the sight of the spectacle provoked by the decision of the Paris Assize court. But that was how things were, and it is food for thought in the future.

Nothing permitted us to foresee such a decision, and no one, even in secret , would dare brag to anyone who was at the trial that they individually participated in its conclusion. In any event, the law governing secret deliberations will permit the three magistrates and the nine jurors who are its undivided authors to take refuge behind that imperative in order not to answer the questions that many have raised.

But what questions? Again, doesn’t the law come to the rescue of the court and authorize, if not incite it, to come to a decision based only on impressions by saying (Article 353 of the code of penal procedure relative to deliberations at the Assize Court), The law doesn’t demand an accounting from the judges (magistrates and jurors) of the means by which they were convinced; it doesn’t prescribe the rules upon which the completeness and sufficiency of proofs must depend; it prescribes that they must question themselves, seek in the sincerity of silence, reflection and their consciences the impression that was made on their reason by the proofs brought forward against the accused as well as his means of defense. The law only asks them one question, which contains the full measure of their duty: “Are you personally convinced?”

It is also true that we don’t see by what proof, in all its meanings, we can indisputably deduce that Pierre Goldman is the author of the double murder committed December 19, 1969 on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir.

The advocate general himself, if he demands “no less than life imprisonment” for this act never alleged anything more than his conviction in his closing speech. Of undeniable proof of his guilt there was none. He spoke only of a “number of identifications that were extremely impressive and completely determinant.”

It is also true that M. Langlois was faithful to the definition he gave at the beginning of his intervention according to which “the role of the public minister is not to support the prosecution at whatever cost.”

And yet he didn’t neglect the arguments apt to shore up his conviction despite having embraced the already noted distrust concerning the reliability of the testimony. But at the same time he observed that the imprecision and incoherence noted during the line-up in the affair of the Boulevard Richard Lenoir – which Pierre Goldman affirms he had no part in – are nothing but the repetition of the defects observed in the identification procedures of the three crimes that Pierre Goldman admits having committed.

And then there was his terrible peroration: “Because you thought yourself threatened at the pharmacy by the client who came in after you, you had the reflexes of a fighter and you killed him. And because you are also a theoretician you were frightened and you killed the two witnesses, the pharmacist and her preparer. So this is even more serious, for it proceeds from a cerebral operation, it proceeds from a deadly lucidity.”

There was only one authentic response to all this, that of Mr. Emile Pollak. The lawyer didn’t refute the arguments of the prosecution. Instead, he dissolved them. In detail, ceding rarely to “effect,” he reviewed the testimonies one by one giving the impression of their, to say the least, fragility, observing that they were accompanied by absolutely no reconstitution of the facts.

Finally, to support his demonstrations, he said to the jury: “A series of honest men brought this man here, and if you send him elsewhere you will be acting honestly, but Pierre Goldman will still be innocent.” This is what he affirmed at the end of his demonstration, crying: “After forty years at the bar I have never been so sure of the innocence of an accused.”

Everything appeared to have been said. He could have stopped there and he would have had the elegance and even the grandeur of not having to desired to add anything. After a break, Mr. Charles Libman rose and pleaded for more than an hour whatever it was that remained to be pleaded after his partner; and there wasn’t much.

Did he want to score points in that domain where, in conformity with Pierre Goldman’s wishes, his partner barely and tactfully entered, the sensitive point? While his client hid his face in his arms, he slowly read a letter from Mme Goldman, the wife of the young man’s father, in which she wished for “his return.”

Pierre Goldman was against this method, this device. They knew this. A little after the reading he said to his friends: “I’ll never forgive this.”

While the court was out of the room his friends commented on this initiative in lively terms, recalling that this was contrary to what he had prescribed. Seeing to it that his views on his defense prevailed was Pierre Goldman’s strict right. Conforming to this would still have meant, defending him while accepting the difficulty of his defense. Contravening this was very much like an appropriation by the lawyer of the cause that was confided in him.

Once the verdict was heard and calm had returned serious words were pronounced. Pierre Goldman said in an almost empty courtroom: “There was material in the case file for low blows, and I was touched that you didn’t stoop to this.” Already touched, his interlocutor was even more so when he announced to the condemned man his intention to visit him. It was Pierre Goldman who provided the conclusion: “ If I may say so, the absurdity of this sentence resides in its being in perfect conformity with my destiny, with my fundamental aptitude for being accused.”

M. Braunschweig was also to have his conclusion. He replied to a young female lawyer who, confused, asked him in the corridors the reason for the life sentence. The presiding judge of the Assize Court replied, beside himself: “He should have been defended better.” Was this aimed at the defense itself, or was he describing in a phrase the jury’s deliberations and what he thought of them? He should then have answered: “He should have been judged better.”