US man convicted of murdering German student

17th December 2014, Comments 0 comments

A US man who cornered a teenage German exchange student in his garage and shot him in cold blood could spend the rest of his life in prison after he was convicted of murder Wednesday.

Markus Kaarma, 30, killed 17-year-old Diren Dede in April after Dede wandered into the American's garage in the small town of Missoula, Montana, at night, looking for alcohol.

Spectators in the packed courtroom cheered when the jury of eight women and four men returned a unanimous verdict of "deliberate homicide" after deliberating for 12 hours.

The victim's mother, Gulcin Dede, broke into sobs.

District Judge Ed McLean remanded Kaarma to custody and set a sentencing hearing for February 4, and a sentencing decision for a week later.

McLean agreed to hear testimony from the victim's parents on Thursday, to spare them the cost of again traveling to Missoula from Germany.

In Montana, deliberate homicide carries a mandatory sentence of between 10 and 100 years.

Dede's father, Celal, said the verdict showed that no one could escape justice.

"Everybody shall receive the punishment he deserves," he said. He and his wife also thanked local people for the reception they received in Missoula during the trial.

"Thank you for Montana," Celal Dede said.

Kaarma's attorneys had argued he acted in self-defense.

They invoked a local law known as the "Castle Doctrine" that allows homeowners to use deadly force to defend themselves and their families from bodily harm or to prevent a violent crime.

"You shouldn't have to run out the back door or lock the door if the state tells you to lock up," lead attorney Paul Ryan said.

Ryan insisted Kaarma wasn't a monster but had only tried to do the best he could under difficult circumstances to protect his family.

But prosecutors argued Kaarma and his girlfriend purposely left the garage open to trap an intruder after they'd been burgled previously.

"He had one thing on his mind," Deputy County Attorney Karla Painter said. "That was revenge."

Members of the community expressed relief and satisfaction with the guilty verdict. "He's off the street," said Jay Bostrom, Diren Dede's former soccer coach.

© 2014 AFP

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