Pierre Goldman 1974

The Richard Lenoir Affair

By Marc Kravetz

Source: Libération, December 9, 1974;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2007.

At the beginning of April 1970 Pierre Goldman went to a friend’s house on the rue de l’Odeon. Just as he was about to cross the street he was brutally intercepted by a group of policemen. The next morning the major papers held up their front pages. They had just arrested the man who, on December 19, 1969, had attempted a holdup at a pharmacy on Boulevard Richard Lenoir, killing a pharmacist and the woman who did her preparations, seriously wounding a customer and a policemen who came to their assistance. Nothing but the ordinary in all this, just another police exploit in the long struggle opposing vice to virtue. This, at least, was the police thesis, relayed by the press, who lend it credence. For the members of the jury who will have to deliberate this week the affair is far from being as simple as the police version.

What is its basis?

  1. On the denunciation of an informant whose identity the police have never revealed.
  2. On Pierre Goldman’s confession “a contrario” to the police that he had nothing to do with the “Richard Lenoir Affair,” giving as proof that it wasn’t “his style” three other holdups whose authors the police had never identified. The police claim they didn’t allude in any way to Richard Lenoir at their first interrogation.
  3. On the “formal” identification of Goldman by the customer wounded during the arrest and by the policeman who had tried to arrest the aggressor.
  4. On the identification by other witnesses on the scene who went to their windows upon hearing gunshots.

Fours points that Pierre Goldman’s lawyers will have no difficulty in refuting. The question of the police informant is doubtful in and of itself. The police must give details that have been lacking up till now in order for them to be taken into consideration.

The conditions under which Pierre Goldman were interrogated at the Quai des orfevres are problematic, to say the least. If the police really arrested Goldman based on a denunciation, one can’t understand why they make no allusion to the fact that they finally have the assassin. What’s more, Pierre Goldman denies saying the things attributed to him.

The identification by the two direct witnesses is also stained with doubt. One of them saw Goldman’s portrait in all the papers before identifying him at the Quai des Orfevres; the other, the policeman, was “prepared” for that identification and had seen a photo of the man he was to “identify.”

The conditions under by which Goldman was “identified” by the witnesses aren’t clear. The police proceed by having a certain number of people appear in a room, the accused and policemen dressed the same way as in the statements during the inquest. The witnesses aren’t visible from the room where this identification takes place. No photos were taken showing the group of people thus shown. What state was Pierre Goldman in? He who hadn’t slept or eaten at the time? Does not a man upon whom such suspicions weigh act in a way that distinguishes him from the others?

As for the other witnesses, it is at the very least doubtful that they could, with precision, identify anyone at all on a December 19, in the evening, from windows situated several meters from the scene. No re-enactment of the crime took place. It would have permitted the verification, among other things, of the reliability of testimony of this type.

For the prosecution these elements are, we should recall, the sole elements of proof. They are not very solid. But this fragility is not alone in pleading in favor of Goldman.

  1. During the four years of preparation for his trial Pierre Goldman has always denied any participation in the attack of the boulevard Richard Lenoir. He has never varied in any of his declarations.
  2. The expert ballistic reports have always been negative. Goldman was arrested without any weapons. Two were found in valise that belonged to him; neither had been used in this crime.
  3. The descriptions given by witnesses after December 19 were much more confused: most notably “a black man” was spoken of.
  4. The murders committed in the pharmacy were obviously the act of a confused individual who had lost his cool. None of which corresponds with Pierre Goldman’s comportment. His close friends say of him – and they testified about this to the police – that he has total self-control, especially in difficult or dangerous situations. What is more, and this will not fail to be recalled during the trial, in one of the three holdups he admitted to, Pierre Goldman confronted a man who fired at him. Goldman was armed, but he didn’t use his weapon. This does not at all go with the observations made by police concerning the crime on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir.
  5. The question of the “alibi.” The police argue against Pierre Goldman the lack of precision of his declarations on this subject. He says that that night he visited friends, but their declarations all differ. Anyone with common sense would admit that more than four months later it is difficult to remember one’s acts to the minute – or the acts of friends who are visiting you.

These are the “material” bases of this trial. We will return to them over the course of its unfurling.