The Court began its deliberations on March 4 on whether or not to overrule the lower court’s decision not to try Kobili Traoré for killing Halimi in 2017 after that decision was appealed in 2019.
France's lower court decided in December 2019 to excuse the antisemitic murderer of a Jewish woman from a criminal trial because heavy intake of cannabis supposedly compromised his “discernment,” or consciousness.
At the time of the ruling, the judge cited psychiatric evaluations saying Traoré’s consumption of marijuana before the incident led to a “delirious episode” that made him not legally responsible for his actions. However, the judge also said that Traoré, who is in his 30s, killed Halimi because he is an antisemite. The lower court's decision sparked outrage among the French and international Jewish community.
In April 2017, Traoré, a 27-year-old Muslim man, beat Halimi, his 65-year-old Jewish neighbor, while screaming "Allah Akbar" (God is great) and antisemitic slogans before throwing her out of the window of her third-floor apartment to her death.
The Wednesday verdict triggered a fresh round of outrage from Jewish organizations, upset that such a precedent would be set.
The French Chief Rabbi reacted on Twitter, saying that such a decision was a scandal, adding that "antisemitism was not a madness" but a crime that should be legally punished.
The CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities called it a “miscarriage of justice,” while the founder of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Antisemitism, a communal watchdog known as BNVCA, said he “no longer had full confidence that antisemitic hate crimes in France are handled properly.”THE SIMON Wiesenthal Center also commented, saying it was profoundly distressed by the French Supreme Court's final say, concerning the legality of the Paris Appeals Court decision, denying the criminal responsibility of Halimi's murderer.
#SarahHalimi - La Cour déshonore les valeurs fondatrices de la République et en particulier la fraternité, au cœur du projet de la Nation.L’antisémitisme doit être l’affaire de tous et, plus que jamais, une grande cause nationale.— Haïm Korsia (@HaimKorsia) April 14, 2021
"After a harrowing three years of courtroom debate on the criminal responsibility of a murderer, presumably 'under the influence' of cannabis - which basically resulted in him being interned in a psychiatric hospital instead of being judged and condemned to prison - the family has been on edge until now," said Dr. Shimon Samuels, the center's director for international relations. "This is a devastating blow!"
According to Dalloz, France’s prominent professional and university legal publisher, the main arguments of Halimi's lawyers were that "drug addiction is not a mental illness and does not fall within the scope of psychic or neuropsychic disorders covered by article 122-1 of the penal code. The voluntary act of drug consumption constitutes wrongful behavior which excludes irresponsibility."Moreover, since the consumption of cannabis is intended to obtain a modification of the state of consciousness, Kobili Traoré must have been aware of the risks involved in this consumption," they said. "Therefore, the consumption of narcotics is an aggravating circumstance and may not at the same time constitute grounds for exemption from criminal liability."
Samuels stressed that "the Supreme Court’s decision now closes the case definitively... and instead of allowing it to be re-examined by the Appeals Court on the basis of a more solid legal standpoint, it confirms that it is possible to deny justice for a murder aggravated by its antisemitic character. Furthermore, this decision denies closure for the family and 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."
According to Algemeiner, following confirmation of Traoré's criminal irresponsibility, he would be held in mental health institutions until doctors deem him fit to be released back into society – and the only penalty he would receive would be a ban from visiting the site of the killing and having contact with Halimi’s family for 20 years.
“How can we have a ‘discernment’ that is abolished, but the remainder of a conscience?” Muriel Ouaknine Melki, a lawyer representing the Halimi family, told Algemeiner prior to the trial. They added that Traoré's trial was important to all French citizens, as it would set a precedent that “the consumption of narcotics can be a cause for exonerating from penal responsibility in criminal matters.”