Jury convicts cannibal of manslaughter

German victim wanted to be killed, then eaten

January 31, 2004|By Jeffrey Fleishman | Jeffrey Fleishman,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BERLIN - In a crime that tested Germany's legal system and horrified the public, a computer technician was found guilty of manslaughter yesterday and sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison for killing and eating a man he met in an Internet chat room.

The verdict against Armin Meiwes underscored the legal complexity of the two-month trial in the town of Kassel. The victim, Bernd Brandes, consented to be killed and cannibalized in March 2001. The court rejected the prosecution's argument that the 42-year-old defendant killed Brandes for "sexual gratification."

Judge Volker Muetze said Meiwes' twisted fantasy was "viewed with repulsion in our civilized society." But he added that "seen legally, this is manslaughter - killing a person without being a murderer." The ruling discarded the defendant's contention that he was culpable only of "killing on request," which carries a sentence of fewer than five years in prison. Germany has no law against cannibalism.

The trial of Meiwes took the public into the mind of a man who built a death chamber in his half-timbered farmhouse and dined on parts of Brandes while sipping South African red wine.

A videotape showing Meiwes stabbing his 43-year-old victim was shown to the court. The footage reveals that Brandes, a Berlin engineer with a history of depression, numbed himself with sleeping pills and schnapps and willingly chose to die and be eaten. Prosecutors characterized the defendant as a "human butcher" and sought a life sentence for murder.

Meiwes, who confessed to the killing and was found legally sane to stand trial, posted an Internet ad seeking a young man wanting "to be eaten." He received more than 200 replies.

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