Four young men found not guilty of the racist murder in St. Petersburg
July 25, 2006, in St. Petersburg, the jury found four young men not guilty of the September stabbing death of a Congolese student Roland Epassak, 29.
After Tuesday's verdict, Prosecutor Dmitry Mazurov called the jurors "simple folk" who were unable to objectively evaluate evidence. "Evidence for them is a bloody knife with fingerprints on it," Mazurov said in comments broadcast on Rossia state television late Tuesday. As evidence, prosecutors had presented the student's clothes, on which they said fibers from the suspects' clothing had been found. However, the jury declared the evidence invalid.
Congolese student Roland Epassak, 29, was attacked by four young men on the night of Sept. 9 near the building where he lived, prosecutors said. The attackers struck him on the head with a rock and then began punching and kicking him. After Epassak fell to the ground, they continued beating him and stabbed him several times, including in the throat. Epassak died from the stab wounds five days later in a hospital. The attack was eventually classified as a hate crime.
One of the four defendants, Andrei Gerasimov, was accused of stabbing Epassak at least seven times. The other suspects were Yury Gromov, Andrei Olenev and Dmitry Orlov. The suspects are 19 to 26 years old.
The suspects were detained in late September, and city prosecutors later announced they had admitted to killing Epassak. All four, however, declared their innocence in their July 20 closing statements to the St. Petersburg City Court. They denied having racist sentiments and noted that the suspected murder weapons had never been found. They also pointed out that no blood had been found on their clothes. However, a defendant accused of throwing a rock exposed himself and the others by saying, that he hadn't been able to throw a rock by his left hand so as to hit Epassak directly in the head, because the student was surrounded by the other defendants.
Prosecutors plan to appeal to the Supreme Court.