The Josef Fritzl Trial – Day Two
Posted by shadmia on March 18, 2009
Josef Fritzl’s trial is in its second day. On the first day he pleaded guilty to: Incest, Coercion, Rape and Deprivation of liberty. He pleaded not guilty to: Murder and Enslavement. See The Josef Fritzl Trial – Day One for all the details. Catch the story from the beginning in this 5-part video called The Josef Fritzl Story and read about developments in the case since being arrested and imprisoned on The Josef Fritzl Page.
The second day of the trial that has been dubbed Austria’s Trial of the Century began about 9:00 am with Josef Fritzl once again entering court holding a blue folder in front of his face, and holding it up for 10 minutes until cameramen were ordered to leave the courtroom. This time however a photographer was able to take some still pictures of him during his appearance.
This day was not about Josef Fritzl; it was about Elisabeth. It was about how she suffered at the hands of the man who held her captive for 24 years during which she bore him 7 children. It was the day that Josef Fritzl came face to face with the crimes he had committed. It was the day that Elisabeth Fritzl became an avenging angel. During 11 hours of recorded testimony she told the court and the world who her father really was – a rapist, a murderer and a monster who allowed one of their children, Michael, to die without trying to help.
For a man who had been accustomed to being in control, it was his day of reckoning. Fritzl watched the tape, that could very well send him to prison for life, with full attention. As Elisabeth recounted her litany of humiliations, the tape was stopped and Fritzl was cross-questioned. The main aim of the proceedings was to address the most serious charge against Fritzl, that of murdering one of the seven babies fathered in the mouldy fetid cellar of his sprawling house in Amstetten.
Michael, the first born twin, was in trouble. “The accused could see that Michael’s situation was getting worse,” says the charge sheet, “Fritzl was fully aware of this. Instead of calling for emergency medical care for the newborn and securing help for the baby, Fritzl simply told Elisabeth ‘what will be, will be'”.
The baby died two days later. Fritzl is said to have burned the body in a stove in the cellar. Fritzl denies being in the cellar at the time of death, and considers himself not guilty of “murder by neglect”. Elisabeth’s version — which forms the basis of the indictment — was clearly essential.
The taped testimonial provided the basic material for the indictment which describes a history of sexual abuse from the age of 11. Elisabeth recorded her testimony last summer, three months after her release from the cellar of the family home. The memories of her ordeal were still fresh and state prosecutor, Christiane Burkheiser, remembers the occasion — the taping was held over several days, in the presence of psychiatrists and Fritzl’s defense lawyer Rudolf Mayer — as being particularly grueling.
“This was much more emotionally difficult than questioning Mr Fritzl,” said the 33-year-old state prosecutor in an interview.
The taped testimony had been introduced to spare Elisabeth the need to be in the same room as her father, she vows that she never wants to see him again. She tells how she had to give in to her father’s daily demands for violent sex because she knew he had the power of life and death over her. She described how her father not only raped her thousands of times but humiliated her by forcing her to re-enact scenes from pornographic films he made her watch.
The sexual abuse often took place in front of the three children who grew up in the cellar. She described how Fritzl would bring boxes of pornographic videos into the cellar, where he had set up a TV and video recorder, then order his daughter to re-enact scenes with him. Elisabeth gave her evidence looking straight into a camera with no-one else in the room, while lawyers asked her questions from neighboring rooms.
In addition to her testimony, another recording was made by her brother, Harald, in whom she was said to confide. His testimony was also played for the court. He was the only other family member who was willing to testify against Fritzl. The jury also listened to a statement from a neonatal specialist who testified on whether Michael’s death was preventable.
Josef Fritzl has been put on a suicide watch. He is being accompanied by a doctor to whom he had access during breaks in the trial, part of routine psychological and “suicide prevention measures“, said Erich Huber-Guensthofer, deputy director of Sankt Poelten prison, where the defendant is being held. The prosecution has requested that Fritzl be placed in a psychiatric institution after the trial.
Prior to these alleged crimes, Fritzl had been arrested three times in connection with sex offenses — he was never charged in the cases of attempted rape and public exposure, but he served a sentence for a rape conviction in the late 1960s. As well as the possible life sentence for murder, Fritzl faces 20 years behind bars if found guilty of enslavement, up to 15 for a rape conviction, and one year for an incest conviction. The trial continues tomorrow.