“Without the drop of blood, I would have him acquitted”

Marianne: You seemed devastated when Nordahl Lelandais was sentenced to life. Were you?

Alain Jakubowicz: Yes, of course I was. I wouldn’t be a lawyer if I hadn’t been. Hear me out, I’m not outraged by the decision. But a lawyer is not just holding the hand of an animal that you are leading to the slaughterhouse. When you spend hundreds of hours with someone, you think there’s always room for something, otherwise you’re not a lawyer. If you don’t believe in it, there’s no point in being a lawyer.

READ ALSO: Nordahl Lelandais sentenced to life imprisonment: the maximum sentence after three weeks of inconsistencies

And then, just before entering this room, there was the smell of blood, the smell of killing. I said to myself, fortunately the death penalty no longer exists! “Perpetuity” is a heavy word. We feel it pass. And then, it’s always a collective failure, of our whole society… Each time I heard this word in a courtroom, I received an electric shock.

In your book, “Either I win, or I learn” (Plon edition), you recount your first meeting with Nordahl Lelandais, who then claims to be innocent of the murder of Maëlys and you say that you believed him…

Of course, I believed him. More exactly, I wanted to believe it. I wanted to believe he was innocent. Everything overwhelmed him and he said he was innocent. This is a situation that every lawyer dreams of. On my part, it was, I confess, a sin of pride. It is assumed today.

Maëlys’ family criticized you for speaking for him, especially when you said that the white figure in Lelandais’ Audi A3 looked like ” to a mature woman “. At the time, however, everything was already converging on him…

This sentence, I apologized for in pleading. But yes, I speak in his place, it’s my role, my job. At first, we did microsurgery of the file. With my collaborators, we had gone through everything with a fine-toothed comb. When I filed a request for release, the text was 17 pages, there was nothing to condemn it. I say it today, without the drop of blood, I have him acquitted. It’s terrible to say, I know it, but without that tiny drop, they have nothing.

Three months after Maëlys, then comes the case of Corporal Noyer…

Yes, that comes later. They call me for police custody in Chambéry, I wonder what this thing is. I can see from there that everything is unraveling. At that moment, for the first time, I told myself that I was going to stop defending him. My collaborators told me that I couldn’t do that, that it amounted to treason. I had no right to leave her…

The gendarmes then discover the drop of blood in his car, despite his daunting cleaning, and there you are the first to understand that he tricked you. You will see him in detention. It’s a turning point…

Yes. The truth is that that day we said almost nothing to each other. Nordahl Lelandais immediately felt that the earth was collapsing under his feet and that he was dragging me into the landslide.

And you decide to stay…

There is something that people cannot understand. When you see someone during all these years, inevitably there are human bonds which are woven. I did a real accompaniment with him, I didn’t just go and see him the day before the hearing.

How do you live this hatred of which you are, alongside Lelandais, the target?

It’s like that. Victims have every right. We can only bow to the pain of the family of Maëlys.

In your book, you highlight this sentence by Robert Badinter: “ To plead is to get a hard-on; to convince is to enjoy “. It reasons with your pleading before the Assize Court of Grenoble…

Yes, it’s true. I had said to my two collaborators before their pleading, have fun! Usefully of course, in the interest of the defense. Admittedly, it is a fact. There we defended the defense as much as a man.

During your pleading, did you feel any edge faults? Did you have any regrets afterwards?

No, everything was under control. I didn’t go there without a net as I usually do. Precisely, I knew that I had no right to make an edge fault. Everything was under control, even if I improvised my memory of Pierre Truche saying at the Barbie trial: ” I ask that for life Barbie be recluse »… I regret maybe a quarter of an hour too much, in the middle. Neither at the beginning nor at the end. The tolerance threshold for jurors is two hours, and I went beyond that. I felt that at one point, in the middle, on the personality of Nordahl Lelandais, I had lost them a bit. But then I went looking for them.

If you retrial ten times, ten times he gets life, or do you think he can be sentenced to 30 years as you pleaded?

I think there is a place for thirty years, infinitesimal, but there is a place. There is always one even if there, it must be recognized, with the weight of the case, it is very difficult. There is the “Lelandais tax”. Excluding tax is thirty years, as in the Dickinson case with rape and murder…

The turning point in the Maëlys affair, we understood it well at the trial, was the vertiginous discovery of the drop of blood…

When the drop of blood arrived, we looked at everything, including to find out if we could not dispute it. It was our role, but there was no way. He couldn’t deny it anymore. From there, I set limits for myself. I’m not saying it’s daylight at midnight, or midnight at noon. It was my credibility that was at stake. I am never in violent conflict with the magistrates. For me, it is about respecting the dress and my principles. If at the time of the discovery of the drop of blood, Nordahl Lelandais had wanted to continue to deny, he would have done so without me… I would have left, yes. The game was over. He played, he lost.

You’re the one calling the judges to tell them he’s going to say where he left the little girl… Are you making him confess?

No, I’m not admitting it. It’s not my role. I accompany him, as is the role of a lawyer. But I don’t have the right to go any further if he doesn’t want to. It’s his defense and it’s his life. It was the job of the investigators to try to go further. Not mine.

Would the sentence have been the same if he had confessed to rape at the hearing?

In this case, the president could add a special question and he faced a real life sentence of thirty years. But who will incriminate themselves? He couldn’t speak. It was not possible. It was up to the prosecution to put forward elements. This dimension of the file was played out upstream, during the investigation, to avoid him being sent off for rape… It would have been possible to come back to it during the trial only with a new element, which could only be confession on his part.

Could you have been the lawyer for the family of Maëlys?

Yes of course. Lelandais was lucky not to have me face to face.

What is frustrating at the end of this case is this impression of not knowing anything about what really happened…

His “victory” to him, in quotation marks, is to leave everyone in the lurch. Nobody knows. But does he know himself? It’s easy to lie to others, it’s harder to lie to yourself. Today, Nordahl Lelandais has probably convinced himself of his own lies. It’s armor. Otherwise, it is very complicated for him. But I’m neither his shrink nor his confessor, I’m just his lawyer.

Even for you, there is a Lelandais mystery…

Every man is a mystery. It is proper to man… The acts he committed are a mystery. For me, the complete mystery is how for 34 years he was an irreproachable guy… How does it start? How does it rock? The experts say nothing about it. The real enigma for me is this.

Why not appeal when he took the maximum provided?

This is useless. He won’t say anything more anyway. And then why impose this on the victims? This is also why I said that Nordahl Lelandais no longer needed a lawyer. He will be able to pretend to go out one day. It’s all up to him now. Will he study, behave well in prison, follow a course of care. But I, who will be 70 years old, in twenty years, I will no longer be there to assist him…

Why did you say right away that you were not appealing, without waiting for the ten-day deadline?

Because we had decided before. I wanted to put an end to the excitement and speculation. Getting these people to go home and say, it’s over. So why wait for the ten-day deadline? To me, that was a little extra torture, a little revenge. You had to be consistent.

“Isn’t everything a foregone conclusion? We fought for the defense. Beyond Nordahl Lelandais, we fought, in a way, for justice. »

It was also consistent with what I had pleaded. I did not see justice organizing a new trial, and anyway, Nordahl Lelandais had no desire to start again… For him, an appeal meant two more years in his remand center in Saint-Quentin -Fallavier. Whereas now, with a final sentence, his new prison life will be able to begin. He will be transferred to a central house and settle in his long detention. For the victims, the fact that there is no appeal also means that it is over…

What do you feel the day after such a trial?

Life resumes its course. It still scored! My two young collaborators, Mathieu Moutous and Valentine Pariat, were also very impressed. There were tears, yes. It’s good that it’s coming out. It’s the job that comes in, I’m happy to pass it on. At the end of the day, we wonder what we were used for, was it useful, all this work… Wasn’t it all a foregone conclusion? We fought for the defense. Beyond Nordahl Lelandais, we fought, in a way, for justice.

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