In Infuriating Ruling, Court Decides Drug User Cannot Be Held Criminally Responsible for Throwing Elderly Woman to Her Death


If you needed fresh evidence that the French have the wrong cultural idea about everything, consider the case of Kobili Traoré.

Traoré, according to The New York Times, has admitted to killing a 65-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman, Sarah Halimi, in 2017. The Times described Traoré as having committed the crime in an “anti-Semitic frenzy.”

At the very least, he yelled “Allahu akbar,” or God is great, and “I killed the devil” after he threw her out of her Paris apartment window to the pavement; one psychiatric report described the mezuzah on her doorpost as having “amplified the frantic outburst of hate.”

After four years of legal wrangling in what should have been an open-and-shut case, however, Traoré won’t be tried for killing Halimi, who was his neighbor. The reason? He basically was too high on pot at the time to be held criminally responsible for her death.

According to France24, the country’s Court of Cassation ruled April 14 that Traoré was in a “delirious fit” at the time of the killing and couldn’t be held responsible under the law.

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Business Insider noted the drug user and dealer had smoked up to 15 joints a day since the age of 13 — although he apparently was able to repress his urges until, at the age of 27, he killed a person.

The court determined that “a person is not criminally responsible if suffering, at the time of the event, from psychic or neuropsychic disturbance that has eliminated all discernment or control.”

That law, the French court found, doesn’t apply differently to someone who has lost discernment through voluntary drug use.

“The judge cannot distinguish where the legislator has chosen not to make a distinction,” the court ruled, according to The Times.

Should this man should be held accountable for throwing a woman to her death?

“It is possible to consider that the current law is unsatisfactory,” said Sandrine Zientara, a prosecutor in the case. “Its application has led here to complete impunity.”

She added that the decision in the case has been the source of “a great deal of incomprehension.”

Emmanuel Piwnica, a lawyer for the Halimi family, argued the law deals with naturally occurring psychiatric disturbances, “not the consumption of narcotics or alcohol.”

Judges, he said, should realize “the use of narcotics cannot be the basis for arguing penal irresponsibility.”

Even French President Emmanuel Macron had weighed in last year in January, arguing the case needed to be tried.

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“Even if, in the end, the judge decided that there was no criminal responsibility, there is a need for a trial,” Macron said at the time, according to Business Insider.

He was criticized by some in the judiciary for interfering with their independence.

Lower courts already had rejected a trial in the case at the time, a ruling appealed by the Halimi family. In the interim, France’s Jewish leaders had rallied to the Halimis’ defense, believing the case was emblematic of recent anti-Semitism in France.

In 2012, a shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse by an Islamist gunman claimed four lives. In 2015, jihadist Amedy Coulibaly killed four Jewish people at a kosher supermarket, later saying his victims were among the people he detested most — “the Jews and the French.”

In these cases, The Times noted, those in the French Jewish community were angry that the crimes weren’t called “anti-Semitic” by the media or were dismissed as lone-wolf violence. Those misgivings weren’t assuaged by the ruling in the Halimi case.

“From now on in our country, we can torture and kill Jews with complete impunity,” Francis Kalifat, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, said, according to France24.

“It’s a bad message for French Jewish citizens,” said Muriel Ouaknine Melki, the lawyer for Halimi’s brother.

The ruling was a “devastating blow,” Shimon Samuels, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director for international relations, told The Times. He added that it “potentially creates a precedent for all hate criminals to simply claim insanity or decide to smoke, snort or inject drugs or even get drunk before committing their crimes.”

It’s difficult to decide what’s more infuriating here: the fact that France can’t try an admitted killer because of his marijuana consumption, or the anti-Semitic nature of the crime.

Even if Halimi’s death sparks some kind of change in the law, it’s too late for Traoré to face justice. While he’s been in psychiatric care since killing Halimi, there’s no guarantee he won’t be released.

Shame should be upon everyone whose hands were on this misguided decision.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture