Last Week of Anxious Wait in Bulgaria-Jailed Aussie AppealCrime | February 14, 2011, Monday // 15:00| views
Bulgarian prosecutors demand a life sentence without parole for the Australian citizen Jock Palfreeman, who has been found guilty of a 2007 murder in Sofia. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency
Two families from Bulgaria and Australia enter the last week of a tense one-month wait for a Sofia court to rule in an appeal against the murder sentence of Jock Palfreeman.
The life of 20-year-old Bulgarian law student Andrei Monov was cut short brutally in the early hours of December 28, 2007 after he was fatally stabbed by young Australian Jock Palfreeman in a street brawl in the center of the capital Sofia. Another man, Antoan Zahariev, was wounded.
Palfreeman was convicted in December 2009 to twenty years in jail, a sentence that he and his parents appealed, slamming it as "hideous perversion of justice". The Australian argues that he intervened only to go to the aid of two Roma gypsies being beaten by the group of boys, part of which Andrei was.
The parents of Andrei have launched an appeal of their own, demanding that Jock gets the heaviest sentence in Bulgaria – life without parole.
Ever since the tragic incident Andrei's friends and family have been shying away from the media, barraged by what they have described as "the media performances" of the murderer and the one-sided coverage of the Australian media, who prefer to picture Jock as nothing but a victim of a judicial farce.
Following January 19 final hearing the family of the 24-year-old Australian says he is feeling both more optimistic and nervous about the outcome of the appeal process.
"We are optimistic that this court will consider the evidence in a different way. But paradoxically Jock is also more nervous. He feels this is his last chance to get a just verdict," Dr Simon Palfreeman, father of the defendant and a key member of his legal defence team, said outside the courtroom.
Asked whether he will continue to tenaciously defend his son in the Bulgarian legal system, Simon Palfreeman said he is ready to take the case to the Supreme Court of Cassation if the appeal verdict is not in his son's favour.
"A young man lost his life, but I want my son's life back. He deserves to have it back on the evidence that has been presented to the court."
The evidence however has been challenged by both sides.
Jock's appeal is built upon the discrepancies between the initial statements of the witnesses and the trial evidence, a faux pas, which he attributes to their efforts to cover up the initial clash with the Roma. He also wants his original murder conviction overturned on the grounds that the legal process was deeply flawed.
"Evidence confirms that Jock's motive was just to be a good Samaritan," Simon Palfreeman said as he presented his final deposition, the culmination of three years' work.
According to him the original court decision and the whole trial and case has been flawed and wrong, marred by procedural lapses, discrepancies in evidence and intentional oversights. He harshly criticized the police for failing to secure the crime scene, get CCTV footage and call in front of the judges all the important witnesses.
Dr Palfreeman pointed out that an independent witness has confirmed his son pulled out the knife only after he saw a group of men beating an unidentified Roma person for up to 40 seconds.
The court is now facing an uphill battle – it has to deliver a just verdict despite the unclarities and discrepancies in the trial, shed its image of being ineffective, corrupt and prejudiced especially when the defendant is a foreigner.
Local lawyers however have ruled out the possibility of Jock getting acquitted or sentenced to life without parole, killing the hopes for justice of both families on both sides of the world.