Who will answer for a shattered life?
A Ukrainian court has yet again sentenced a man to life imprisonment without any proof that he committed the crime. Vladimir Syrotenko writes in the Kherson newspaper Vhoru that the charges were absurd and the case filled with discrepancies. The verdict, he writes, cannot be considered read “in the name of Ukraine since this was a sentence against justice and the law”.
A panel of judges in the Tsyurulynsk District Court found Oleksandr Yevtyfeev guilty of a terrible crime: robbery with violence and murder. In both cases the prosecution usually seeks a life sentence and the author writes that so it should. Yet what if the law enforcement system has made a mistake and the person is innocent? Who is to answer for a shattered life?
Four years ago in the village of Kommuna in the Holoprsytansk District, three men broke into the home of a businessman K. It was late at night and everybody was asleep.
K’s wife says that they were awoken by a man telling them to get up. She saw three armed men in black masks. One of them told her to sit quietly and she wouldn’t get hurt. At the same moment her husband received a blow and fell to the ground. His arms and legs were bound, using scotch tape. She was taken out into the corridor, but she could hear them beating her husband and demanding some kind of money. K said that there was none in the house and that he had to go to the bank. She heard more conversation, more cries and then a shot.
Bound and lying face down, K. was killed by one shot in the back. Some time later the police detained three suspects, but not the main person, the one who fired the shot. During the interrogation the detained men became more talkative and claimed that on that fatal night there had been a person called Yevtyfeev with them.
Two of the men named Yevtyfeev as the person who fired the shot, with one saying that the shot was an accident.
At the time Yevtyfeev had gone abroad in search of work. He was later arrested in St Petersburg and handed over to the Ukrainian investigators.
After the three men had given their testimony, the investigators received a disk from the SBU [Security Service] with a recording of a telephone conversation between Yevtyfeev and his friend, an SBU officer. The conversation appears to refer to an occasion when a gun which was supposed to be used to frighten somebody turned out to be loaded.
Yevtyfeev was arrested and charged.
His lawyer is adamant that Oleksandr Yevtyfeev is innocent and has an alibi for the time of the crime. He asks what kind of proof they’re talking about when the three spoke of somebody with the same surname, but a different first name. He mentions other problems with the testimony and discrepancies with what the murdered man’s wife remember.
And, finally, his client has an alibi. Three people confirm that on the evening in question, before and after the crime he was with them in Kherson. The court refused to take this into account.
He also points out that there is no court order in the file for tapping Yevtyfeev’s phone and the Constitutional Court has stated that evidence obtained through unlawful means may not form the basis of a prosecution.
Last Monday the Tsyurulynsk District Court convicted Oleksandr Yevtyfeev, having decided that his guilt was proven. They chose to believe the evidence of the three men given during interrogation and without lawyers present. The fact that in court they said that Yevtyfeev was not with them was not deemed to be important, while the disk, which has not undergone an expert assessment, formed the basis of the prosecution. And of a man’s sentence to life imprisonment.
Based on the information in an article by Volodymyr Syrotenko