The Assize Court of Côte-d’Or reads the lips of the accused

With her back bent, her head in her shoulders, Marie-Paulette moves around with a walker and cannot get up when her name is announced. This sexagenarian, however, wants to be heard. It was she who appealed against her conviction handed down 5 years ago in Lons-le-Saunier: 25 years in prison for homicide.

At the Assize Court of Appeal of Côte-d’Or, she remains seated in her place and no sound comes out of her mouth when she has to answer. Victim of laryngeal cancer, she was deprived of her vocal cords. An interpreter reads the words she forms on her lips and reproduces them aloud for the whole assembly. It’s long, sometimes you have to try several times to distinguish the right syllables, but everyone remains very patient. “It’s an unprecedented situation” confirms Caroline Podevin the president of the Assize Court of Appeal. “In 7 years of practice here I have never seen this. And since this person cannot express himself in sign language, we therefore resort to this system of lip readings. Justice must adapt. “

The trial lasts 15 days instead of 7 © Radio France
Olivier Estran

A defendant who returns to the hospital every evening

Given the difficulties of the accused, the trial is not held in the magnificent historic grounds of the Court of Appeal, but in an impersonal room of the Commercial Court, accessible to people with reduced mobility. 5 years ago in Lons-le-Saunier, this family assistant asked for the postponement of her trial which fell just after her operation. Report rejected and debates much more laborious. Marie Paulette appeared on a medical bed and spoke with a slate. She was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the murder of a man in her fifties for whom she was responsible, in Plasne in the Jura and she still has the bitter feeling of not having been able to make herself understood.

This time, has Dijon, Caroline Podevin, the president of the court of appeal, wants the most serene trial possible. The debates are limited to 4 hours a day and the hearing will last 15 days instead of a week. Every afternoon, an ambulance returns to pick up the accused to take her to the CHU where she is staying for the duration of this trial. His lawyer, master Laëtitia Birenbaum hopes that his client will be able to explain his gesture. It is also all the wish of the civil parties, 4 relatives of the victim who cast doubt on the version heard in the first instance, and who looking for answers since 2011, date of this tragedy. The truth is awaited on the lips of Marie-Paulette.

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