Jury Begins Deliberations in Palme Case
STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ The judges and jury Monday began deliberating the fate of an ex-convict accused of assassinating Prime Minister Olof Palme.
″My name is Christer Pettersson and I did not kill Olof Palme,″ the defendant said when asked for a statement at the close of his five-week trial.
Pettersson, 42, is charged with killing Palme in 1986 as the four-term prime minister was walking home from a movie with his wife, Lisbeth, who was the prosecution’s key witness.
Presiding District Judge Carl-Anton Spak rejected a defense request to dismiss the case for lack of evidence. He said that on Thursday, he will announce the date the court will deliver its judgment. The two judges and six jurors each have a vote and, if the court is split evenly, the presiding judge has the final say.
Pettersson, who has served a jail term for manslughter and has a history of drug abuse, faces a mandatory life sentence. But, in practice, the government always commutes such sentences to prison terms of less than 20 years, with parole available.
Defense lawyers say they will appeal if Pettersson is found guilty.
In a 90-minute summation, Arne Liljeros said the prosecution lacks physical evidence to back testimony from Mrs. Palme and other witnesses who said they saw Pettersson at or near the street corner where Palme was shot.
He said there are no motive, no murder weapon, no fingerprints and no powder burns on clothing to link his client to the shooting.
″It must simply not happen that an innocent person is sentenced. Thoughts must not even touch on a miscarriage of justice,″ he said.
Liljeros suggested Palme was assassinated in a political conspiracy, and criticized the court for refusing to let him introduce evidence that could point to a plot.
The prosecution’s case is built on a series of ″coincidences which don’t happen in real life. The shot at Palme was a professional job,″ he said.
″Olof Palme was a public figure and controversial both in Sweden and abroad,″ and many people would have an interest in removing him, Liljeros said.
Palme dominated Swedish politics for a decade and earned his socialist- minded country its reputation as an international mediator and champion of disarmament.
The prosecution relied heavily on Mrs. Palme’s identification of Pettersson as the man she saw a few feet away after Palme fell to the street, fatally wounded. She was slightly wounded.
Liljeros said Mrs. Palme’s memory after three years should be considered unreliable and attacked her behavior.
″Lisbeth Palme is a threat to the rule of law in this case,″ he said.
Mrs. Palme had demanded Pettersson be removed from the courtroom while she testified. He was brought at the end of her testimony for her identification. Summarizing his case Thursday, prosecutor Anders Helin said Pettersson is the only man Mrs. Palme has identified from photographs of 647 possible suspects and two police lineups.
The prosecution maintains Petersson is hostile to authority, and offers this as a motive.