STA, 19 April 2022 - The Maribor Higher Court has quashed the December 2021 ruling sentencing to life in prison Silvo Drevenšek, who pleaded guilty to murdering his former spouse and her parents in front of his four-year-old son on Christmas Eve 2020. The court has made the decision because six instead of five judges ruled on the case.
The ruling, the first life imprisonment since this sentence was reintroduced to the Slovenian criminal code in 2008, is thus annulled and the case is being sent to retrial.
The Ptuj District Court, which delivered the ruling in early December 2021, appointed a sixth judge to the panel deciding on the case to avoid extending the court procedure if any of the members for example got ill.
But a record of the meeting of the panel of judges held on 6 December shows that all six members ruled on the case, which is a major violation of the criminal procedure, reporting judge Simona Skorpik said at today's hearing at the Maribor Higher Court.
This is why the panel of judges of the higher court chaired by Breda Cerjak Firbas annulled the ruling ex officio without dealing with the contents of the ruling or the appeal filed by the defence.
Both the prosecution and defence were surprised by the decision. "A lot has been invested in this procedure and I am sorry it has come to this. But the court needs to be allowed to decide and rule. That is its function," senior prosecutor Teja Kukovec Belšak said coming out of the courtroom.
Drevenšek's lawyer Andrej Kac said he had been convinced that the ruling would fall but he did not expect it to happen this way. "I am surprised by the reason for returning the case to retrial at the first instance. I did expect, however, the ruling to be annulled and sent into retrial based on its contents and explanation."
According to the higher court's head, Drevenšek refused to attend today's hearing but he remains in custody.
Drevenšek confessed to the triple murder just before the end of the main hearing at the end of 2021.
The panel of judges led by Marjan Strelec almost entirely upheld the proposal of the prosecution, which argued that Drevenšek, who was sane when he committed the act, had killed three people out of revenge after the partner left him and demanded a division of common assets.
The defence subsequently lodged an appeal. Kac said the case was open for many reasons. He argued the prosecution had not managed to present evidence of aggravating circumstances, which are crucial for determining the sentence.
The murders took place on Christmas Eve when Drevenšek, 35, entered the house he used to share with his estranged spouse in Gerečja Vas, a small village in eastern Slovenia, after having agreed to give his four-year-old son a Christmas gift.
Once he entered the house, he stabbed her with a kitchen knife several times until she bled to death.
After killing his former partner, he entered the neighbouring house, where his son, at the time aged four, was minded by his former partner's parents.
He used the same kitchen knife to kill the grandfather, while the grandmother suffered injuries so bad she died in hospital later the same day.
Strelec said in explaining the ruling that the crimes had been proven beyond reasonable doubt and conducted in the worst form, and that Drevenšek had been aware of his actions, which had been premeditated.