When michael wunder from nordhalben goes to the coburg district court, he first gets dressed up. Shirt, tie and jacket are standard. Not that the 48 year old never used to wear that, but he has to dress up for his appointments in court. At least, that is how he interprets the passage in the guide for officers. The court’s style must also be reflected in the clothing, it says. The same applies to defendants as well as to the jury, the honorary lay judges. Michael wunder has held this honorary office for almost 20 years – first in kronach and since 2001, with one interruption, at the coburg district court.
In the bavarian constitution it says: "in the administration of justice men and women from the people shall participate." To maintain the trust of the people in the judiciary. That’s why they are used in the criminal and juvenile divisions of the regional courts and in the criminal and juvenile divisions of the district courts. As a rule, two officers assist a professional judge.
Around eight appointments a year
"I have always been interested in this", says michael wunder. Even at a young age. "My uncle was a lawyer and I was the youth representative in the nordhalben town council." That’s why he applied and "the municipality of nordhalben has thankfully nominated me." In his first four years at the kronach district court, he was quickly confronted with legal jargon: stpo, btmg, JGG – it took him a little while to find his way around the industrial master craftsman is not a lawyer, after all. But the professional judges had explained everything to him and had also taken time if he had any questions.
He is used as a jury member about eight to nine times a year. "Sometimes we do two or three smaller hearings a day." The procedure is always the same: "there is deliberately little on the invitation, because the lay judges should form their own opinion during the hearing", explains wunder. Through a backdoor, the officers and the professional judge enter the deliberation room. For one simple reason: "we are not allowed to come into contact with the defendants". A shrewd defense attorney was able to hold this against us and thus blow up the trial." In the consultation room, the lay judges then talk to the professional judge. "He gives us some information, after all, he knows the case files from A to Z. We the officers could not afford to do that." He only finds out "what’s going on" at the hearing.
As an officer, he was allowed to ask questions, says michael wunder, "but I don’t do that very often. "Our main task is to determine the sentence". Here, the two officers were able to overrule the professional judge – at least in the small criminal division. But according to miracles, this hardly ever happens. "The judges are not sitting on high horse. They talk together and the crimes are heard. It’s rare for a fight vote to happen." The judge clears up the dispute about the punishment – everything happens together. In any case, the leeway in sentencing is "rather small. "Sometimes it’s a matter of one or two months imprisonment, because the code prescribes a lot of things." It is more difficult to decide whether juvenile criminal law or adult criminal law should be applied to young defendants.
Eleven and a half years for jerry J.
In principle, it is not a matter of "sending people to jail, but of putting them back on an orderly track". But sometimes there is no other way. As in spring 2012: michael wunder helped decide that jerry J., the man who killed 16-year-old linda is sentenced to eleven and a half years in prison for manslaughter. "We even had an on-site appointment in the apartment where it happened. It was already an unusual process."
The public attention, crying relatives in the meeting room, the case has been difficult. Even more stressful for him is "when children have been sexually abused". Such processes are not in the majority. "By far the most" he has to deal with dangerous bodily injury, closely followed by violations of the narcotics law.
Nevertheless, there is no routine: "judgments are never easy to make, michael wunder stresses that he is naturally preoccupied with the matter. "But as soon as I leave the building, I try to shake off what I have experienced", he says. Then "the case is closed for me".
Being a doctor is a "difficult job," he says, but exciting and fun "because you can help people most of the time". At least that’s what michael wunder hopes. That is why he will apply again. If he is re-elected, he will continue to help pass judgment on behalf of the people until 2018. "But then it’s over." After 25 years.
Still until 18. Marz, interested parties who would like to be presented with the painting can contact their local authorities. The kronach can find out more here.