In a case that has been widely discussed in the Polish media and followed closely by many, the men from Wlodowo and Boguchwaly villages were charged with the murder of “Jozef C.”
Termed “Murder in Wlodowo” by the media, the incident occurred on July 1, 2005. The victim had been sentenced 23 times for different crimes and spent 34 years of his life behind bars.
Jozef C. lived in Wlodowo with his common-law wife and daughter. He often caused disturbances and threatened many of the locals, who lived in fear for themselves and their children.
On the day of the murder, the victim had beaten his common-law wife and had threatened to kill her.
He then appeared in front of the Winek brothers’ house and proceeded to scream, threatening to burn down their home.
In the brawl that ensued, Jozef C. wounded one of the brothers with a knife and then fled the scene. Three different people notified the police from a nearby town, but the police failed to respond to the situation.
According to police testimony, there was not a free patrol car available at that time.
Two policemen received suspension sentences of up to one year for their negligence.
A few hours later, when the victim began to threaten the lives of the villagers, the Winek brothers and three other men began to chase him. Jozef C. was then forced to the ground and beaten to death with shovels and other objects.
All six attackers were charged in the case.
Prosecutors charged the Winek brothers with murder and demanded that they each receive 10 years in prison.
But the jury decided that no evidence was exhibited to prove that they intended to kill the victim.
The three other suspects were charged with shorter sentences.
The Winek brothers were sentenced to three years of probation with a mandatory two years jail sentence if they commit a crime
within that probation period.
The other three who took part in the beating received six-month to two-year sentences.
They were found guilty of assault with a dangerous object.
Wlodowo inhabitants who have supported their neighbors throughout the trial are happy that they will not serve any time in prison.
However, they also believe the six men should have been acquitted on the grounds that they only acted in self-defense.
But Andrzej Rzeplinski from the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights believes that the incident was murder and the jury’s sentence was incorrect.
In addition, police may not feel obligated to intervene in such cases, even though they should do so, according to the law.
The trial has lasted 11 months to date.