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Austria Stirred by Verdict Sentencing Jewish Student on Charge of Patricide

December 19, 1928
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Tragic Event in Tyrol Mts. Cause of Trial; Charge Insufficient Evidence and Jury Bias (Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

The conviction by an ## jury of Philip Haisman, a Jewish student from Riga, Latvia, on the charge of patricide has stirred public opinion in Austria to an unprecedented extent.

Philip and his father, Max Halsmann, came from Riga for an excursion last summer in the Tyrol Mountains. Max Halsmann found his death in a ravine. Whether he was pushed by his son, or fell by accident, was the question which the jury had to decide. After a prolonged trial, Philip Halsmann was sentenced to ten years imprisonment at hard labor on the charge of having killed his father. The verdict was based principally on the story told by a Tyrol shepherd boy.

Max Halsmann was a dentist and an owner of real estate in Germany, Switzerland and in Palestine.

Many members of the family, including the accused’s mother and sisters, were present at the trial. Numerous friends of the family from Riga, Dresden and Zurich came to Innsbruck. The accused persistently protested his innocence. Before the trial ended, he declared, noticing the court atmosphere, that he does not wish to be present when the verdict would be pronounced. On being led out of court, he shouted hysterically, “Uncles, aunts, do you consider me guilty? A judicial crime is being committed against me. It is a shame to charge a Jewish son with killing his father.”

The verdict has aroused wide attention in the press. The charge is being made that the jury composed of Innsbruck professional men, mostly members of the anti-Semitic Christlichsoziale party, though not presented with sufficient evidence proving guilt beyond doubt, motivated by anti-Semitic bias and by the desire to produce a case of Jewish patricide, convicted Philip Halsmann. The fact that he was given a comparatively mild sentence, although nine of the jurors voted “Yes” in reply to the question as to whether murder was committed, would indicate, it is argued, that the evidence was insufficient. The “Neue Freie Presse,” leading Vienna paper, writing editorially on the subject, characterizes the verdict by declaring that “some of the jurors prefer to believe the story of the Tyrol shepherd boy than the testimony of the Jewish student from Dresden.”

Leading jurists and professors have joined a committee formed to ask for new trial which would be transferred to Vienna. The difficulty seems to lie in the circumstances that Austrian jurisprudence rarely sets aside a jury verdict, preferring rather, in doubtful cases, to prevent injustice by an act of clemency. Philip Halsmann attempted suicide in his cell, writing a “last testament” in which he again protested his innocence.

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