STA, 21 December 2020 - Milko Novič has been acquitted a second time of the charge that he murdered Janko Jamnik, director of the National Institute of Chemistry, in December 2014, after initially being found guilty in 2017 of murdering his former boss.
The judging panel of the Ljubljana District Court delivered the not-guilty judgement on Monday, just days before the case would have fallen under the statute of limitations on Sunday.
Considering the CCTV footage and the time frame covered by his alibi, judge Sinja Božičnik said the defendant could not have been at the crime scene. Nor was power of the evidence matching fragments of gun powder found on Novič with those at the crime scene, conclusive enough for a conviction.
The judgement is not final as the prosecution, which had sought 25 years in prison for Novič, announced an appeal, as did the counsel for Jamnik's widow, but the case will become statute barred before the appeal may be heard.
Jamnik was shot in the head twice in a parking lot in Ljubljana as the institute held its Christmas party on 16 December 2014. He died three days later and Novič was soon arrested as the main suspect.
Novič was first convicted of murdering his ex-boss out of revenge and sentenced to 25 years in prison in April 2017.
However, after being upheld by the Ljubljana Higher Court, the ruling was quashed in October 2018 by the Supreme Court on the basis of a point of law appeal and a retrial was ordered.
Novič was then acquitted in April 2019, primarily on the basis of a reconstruction which suggested he did not have enough time to reach the crime scene from his home in the window between his alibi and the time of the murder.
The prosecution appealed against the ruling with the Ljubljana Higher Court, which annulled the not-guilty verdict last March sending the case into retrial at the first-instance court in front of a new panel of judges.
In the closing statements today, prosecutor Blanka Žgajnar insisted that Novič had murdered Jamnik out of ruthless revenge for being sacked by Jamnik in 2009 having lost all chances of having the row with his superior resolved in his favour.
Defence counsel Žiga Podobnik disproved the claim by arguing that his losing his job at the institute could not have come as a surprise to Novič that would reflect in his anger at Jamnik; he said Novič had been hired for a fixed term and had known his contract would not be extended.
Podobnik invoked witness statements describing Novič as not being violent and Jamnik as not being afraid of the defendant.
The closing statements followed after the trial heard an opinion compiled by court-appointed expert witnesses from Austria founding it was possible the fragments of gunpowder found on Novič could suggest he was the murderer while it was also possible they came from a shooting range as claimed by the defendant.
The possibility of Novič being contaminated with the fragments was allowed by German experts in the first trial, while the National Forensic Laboratory's opinion put that theory in doubt. The latter held that the fragments found on Novič matched those from the crime scene, while German experts could not confirm that conclusively.
The judge today noted that two of the three opinions commissioned by the court could not conclusively confirm the matching of gunpowder traces and at least two showed it was possible the traces were from the shooting range.
She said the CCTV footage of the two most obvious routes Novič could have chosen had he been a murderer showed it would not have been possible for him to arrive at the crime scene on a bike as alleged by the prosecution.
The judge also referred to data from mobile phone masts that picked up his phone as not leading to a logical conclusion that Novič could have been at the crime scene.
"Whoever was it and committed that horrific act will not face the court, but rather some other unofficial instance," the judge concluded her declaring the judgement.
"I take the judgement as an acquittal regardless of what the prosecution does or that the case will be statute barred. My conscience is clear and peaceful," Novič commented. He felt "sorry for Jamnik's parents, whose strong desire was to find out why their son had to die".
You can read the background to this story here