|Date:||7 December 2021|
|Location:||Athens Court of First Instance, Degleri street, courtroom #2|
|Access:||Access to the courthouse was limited due to measures against the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. No audience was allowed in the courtroom with the exception of the victim’s family, six journalists, one representative of Amnesty International, one representative of the “Orlando LGBTQI+” group and two observers. Photojournalists are not allowed to cover the trial.|
|Defendants in attendance:||Athanasios Chortarias, owner of a real estate agency|
Vassilios Rousakos, police officer, Zeta Group
Leonidas Alexandris, police officer, Zeta Group
David Seferis, police officer, DIAS Group
Ioannis Tsombanis, police officer, DIAS Group
|Process:||Examination of witnesses from the list included in the referral order:|
Pantelis Alexandrou, coroner, technical advisor for the defense
|Next hearings:||14, 17 and 21 December 2021|
|Composition of the court:||Judges:|
Stavgianoudaki Eleana (chair)
Members of the jury:
Prosecutor: Sotirios Bougioukos
Day 4 – 07/12/2021 – Athens Court of First Instance, courtroom #2
The defendants in attendance were Athanasios Chortarias, owner of a real estate agency, and the 4 policemen, namely Vassilios Rousakos and Leonidas Alexandris of the Zeta Group, and David Seferis and Ioannis Tsombanis of the DIAS Group. Defendant Spyridon Dimopoulos, owner of the jewellery store, was represented by his lawyer.
Restrictions to the public’s access to the courtroom remain in place due to the measures against the spreading of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only relatives of the victim and the defendants were allowed in the courtroom, as well as 6 mass media journalists and observers from Amnesty International, the Orlando LGBTQI+ group and ZackieOh Justice Watch.
Deposition of eyewitness T.N.
Witness T.N. stated that he is employed by a private security company, that he did not witness events from the beginning and that he already knew Zak Kostopoulos. He saw the victim inside the jewellery shop, whose window had already been broken by the first two defendants, namely S. Dimopoulos and A. Chortarias. He described how this was followed by “several blows to the head” with “great rage” and “unrestrained hatred”, while his impression was that the victim “was trying to get out”, emphasising that this was contrary to what a thief would do in this situation.
To a question from the prosecutor whether Zak had assaulted a first aid responder with a shard of glass, he answered that Zak had picked up a shard of glass from the ground without making any aggressive motion towards anyone. In answer to a question from prosecution lawyer A. Paparrousou, T.N. said that he had seen no knife, which he had already told the investigative magistrate in his statement. He further said, replying to lawyer Papapantoleon, that Zak “was done for” and had not resisted the police in any way.
Defence lawyer Anagnostopoulos, who represents defendant Dimopoulos, focused on the witness’s statement to the investigative magistrate. The witness noted that he was not saying anything different in his deposition to the court, but that his original statement had merely been shorter as requested by the magistrate.
Defence lawyers Anagnostopoulos and Filos (who represents defendant Chortarias) asked that the witness be shown the video. T.N. described once more in detail his movements in Gladstonos street and the events he had witnessed until the moment the police arrived. Lawyer Filos challenged the idea that the witness had seen everything he described and asked the witness why he was in that place before the end of his shift. In answer to questions from lawyers Patalas (representing defendant Chortarias) and Varela (representing the 4 policemen), the witness qualified the victim’s actions inside the jewellery store as the “erratic” moves of a person who was trapped and “didn’t know how to get out.” When lawyer Varela asked if the victim was “berserk”, the witness answered in the negative, saying that was instead “scared”. Lawyer Filos then asked how the witness had found the investigative magistrate to make his statement, to which the witness said that he went to the courthouse and asked around.
Deposition of prosector Eftychiadis
The next witness examined by the court was prosector Eftychiadis, who had performed the histological examination requested by coroners Kalogrias and Marianou before they came to their conclusions. The witness listed the organs and samples of tissues he had received. He described the victim’s heart, which he had examined, as “perfectly healthy.”
Prosecution lawyers Paparrousou and Papapantoleon subsequently proceeded with their questions. Witness Eftychiadis said that the liver steatosis he had observed could not have caused a sudden or immediate death. He stated that the coroners’ evaluation was correct and that it is their responsibility to determine the cause of death.
The defence lawyers then proceeded with their questions. He excluded the possibility that the victim has sustained a heart attack before the events and said that the recent ischemic lesions to the myocardium that he had observed cannot be timed down to the minute. He also disconnected the issue of the presence of macrophages from Zak’s death, stating that they can be found in nearly all autopsies but also in live people. The defence team asked further questions regarding other possible parameters and hypothetical situations; however, the witness merely replied by referring them to the coroners’ conclusions.
Prosecution lawyer Paparrousou commented that witness Eftychiadis confirmed witness Kalogrias’s deposition, while lawyer Papapantoleon noted that the defence team’s questions are based on assumptions and risk losing the substance of the issue at stake.
On the contrary, defence lawyer Anagnostopoulos, representing defendant Dimopoulos, commented that the witness had not confirmed coroner Kalogrias’s statement, while adding that, going by this latest deposition, he had come to the conclusion that the ischemic episode “had taken place at least one hour before the first aid team called the time of death.” Lawyer Filos, representing defendant Chortarias, aligned himself with this position.
Deposition of technical advisor for the defence Alexandrou
Following the midday recess, the court proceeded to examine witness Pantelis Alexandrou, a private practice coroner appointed as a technical advisor for the defence by defendant Dimopoulos.
The witness stated that he had not been present for the autopsy but had concluded from the reports, the findings and the audiovisual material that the injuries sustained by the victim “had not been determined to be lethal” by the coroners and that the timing of the ischemic episode had not been determined. When the chair asked “what was the cause of death”, the witness did not answer but listed aggravating parameters which, in his opinion, had led to death. The prosecutor reiterated the question, and the witness said that, while the cause was “lesions of an ischemic sort”, those had developed “at an earlier time.”
A series of questions followed from the state prosecutor and one of the judges and the witness replied angrily, which led to a confrontation with the prosecutor who called him to order, while the judge noted that the witness’s answers were unclear. One of the jurors ultimately asked: “If he had not left his home on that day, would he have died?”, only to receive as an answer: “What am I, a diviner?”
In answer to questions asked by prosecution lawyer Paparrousou, witness Alexandrou said that he does not speak of gaps in the forensic report but of elements that were not taken in consideration, that his scientific opinion differs from witness Kalogrias’s and that the victim’s heart malfunctioned “possibly earlier.” He further argued that a possible factor for the physiological stress response may have been “the entrapment of the late man in the jewellery shop” and repeated that “no particular blow could be defined as lethal.”
When asked by lawyer Papapantoleon why his statement is so different from the other coroners’ who had been examined, the witness answered angrily that we should not consider solely the physical lesions, but other factors as well, and concluded that “I do not want to ask this question again.” At this point the prosecutor intervened and emphasised: “ Let me tell you, sir, we will be the ones to judge how many times you will be asked a question. You show no respect to the court whatsoever. ”
The defence focused on the parameters that the witness-technical advisor had listed in his own report, such as the presence of macrophages, the liver steatosis and the pulmonary oedema. The witness reiterated his statement that, in his view, the physiological stress mechanism was not caused by the beating.
Following comments on the witness’s deposition, the court programmed the examination of witnesses for the next sessions and informed the audience accordingly to ensure their presence.
The next session of the trial will take place on Tuesday 14/12/2021.
The full text of our transcript from the courtroom (in Greek) :