At the Zepeda trial, the tightrope walker moment of the defense lawyer

Nicolas Zepeda (center), with his lawyers Julie Benedetti (left) and Jacqueline Laffont (right), on the first day of his trial, at the Doubs Assize Court, in Besançon, March 29, 2022.

One last time, Thursday April 7, they tried. Each in his place, each in his register. Matthieu Husson, the president of the assize court: “Mr. Zepeda, it is established that you spent the night of December 4 to 5 [2016] with Narumi Kurosaki. No one ever saw her again. Don’t you want to say exactly what happened? » Mand Sylvie Galley, the lawyer for the family of the missing Japanese student: “Mr. Zepeda, what did you do to Narumi?” If you want to ease the pain of his mother and sister, now might be the time to admit that you killed her. » Mand Randall Schwerdorffer, who represents Arthur del Piccolo, the young woman’s last boyfriend: “Mr. Zepeda, do you want to help?” You are suspected of having murdered Narumi, what is your other hypothesis? » Etienne Manteaux, Advocate General: “Mr. Zepeda, are you kidding people? Where is Narumi’s body? »

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The evidence overwhelms him to the point of vertigo. His consuming jealousy, his deadly passion for his ex-girlfriend, who had imposed the breakup on him, are recorded in hundreds of e-mails or messages on social networks. His schedule, during the four days of his surprise stay in Besançon, where Narumi was doing a university exchange, has been completely reconstructed, cross-checked. His purchases of flammable liquid, matches and detergent are attested. Narumi Kurosaki’s last cries of life, in room 106 of the student residence where he accompanied her, are timestamped.

Pressed with questions, the accused sidesteps, gets tangled, stumbles and sows consternation. “What night are you referring to exactly?” The one from 4 to 5? That night I slept. » ” I do not know what happened. I would like to know. » Three times he cracks. At the evocation of his past happiness with the young girl. When he is asked about his faith in God. And when we talk to him about his family. But still, he straightens up and affirms: “I didn’t kill Narumi. »

“It’s not a dictation, it’s a question”

Then comes the turn of the defense questions. Mand Jacqueline Laffont gets up, leaves her bench at the foot of the box, walks into the courtroom, puts her glasses on the desk and turns to her client. Everything is signed, in front of the Assize Court. These few meters of physical distance trace a symbolic distance. Him, it’s him. She is her. In the neutral tone with which she addresses the accused, the same distance.

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