PARIS — Omar Raddad, the Moroccan gardener convicted within the grisly killing of a French socialite three many years in the past, succeeded Thursday in his bid to have the case re-examined, reopening a brand new chapter in one in every of France’s most enduring homicide mysteries.
Judges on France’s prime appeals court docket determined to reopen the case after Mr. Raddad’s attorneys introduced new DNA proof that they are saying exonerates him within the 1991 killing of his employer, Ghislaine Marchal, in her villa on the Côte d’Azur in southern France — a killing made well-known by a grammatical mistake.
The court docket ordered an inquiry into an evaluation of the brand new DNA proof, based on the court docket’s three-page ruling. It is step one in what Mr. Raddad’s supporters hope shall be a rehearing of his preliminary trial, 27 years after his conviction.
This can be very uncommon for this French court docket to reopen a case, although authorized reforms in 2014 made it simpler for attorneys to argue for a rehearing. In 2002, the court docket had rejected a earlier request to evaluate Mr. Raddad’s case, primarily based then on new testimony and in addition on earlier DNA proof.
“Reopening a case that was closed in 2002, it’s one thing unbelievable and unhoped-for,’’ Sylvie Noachovitch, Mr. Raddad’s lawyer, mentioned in an interview after the ruling. “For Omar Raddad, it’s an ideal pleasure.’’
The sufferer’s household has opposed reopening the case and believes Mr. Raddad is responsible. In a press release, the household mentioned it hoped that the brand new inquiry would put a “definitive finish to a case that it has skilled painfully.’’
In a short phone interview, Sabine du Granrut, who’s the sufferer’s niece and in addition a lawyer, cautioned in opposition to overestimating the importance of the court docket’s ruling, saying that asking for extra info fell far in need of agreeing to rehear the trial.
“For now, it’s half-opening a small door,’’ Ms. du Granrut mentioned.
Mr. Raddad, 59, has all the time maintained his innocence in a criminal offense that has lengthy unsettled France, touching upon most of the nation’s fissures, together with class, faith and race.
In 1994, Mr. Raddad was sentenced to 18 years in jail for killing Ms. Marchal, whose physique was found within the basement of her villa, with the one door locked from the skin but in addition barricaded from inside. Contained in the locked room, a message was scrawled on a door, written within the sufferer’s personal blood and apparently by the sufferer herself in her final moments: “Omar m’a tuer,’’ or “Omar killed me.’’
However the message contained a grammatical error — it ought to have been “m’a tuée” — that raised questions, not solely about this particular crime, but in addition about class and language in France. May a girl of her social standing make such a trivial mistake, in a rustic the place correct command of the language has lengthy been a mark of fine breeding?
Her household and prosecutors mentioned she had a historical past of creating comparable errors. In keeping with them, Ms. Marchal, whose physique was found with a number of bruises and cuts, discovered the power to denounce her personal assassin within the final minutes of her life by writing that message and a second one — “Omar m’a t” — that was left incomplete.
Mr. Raddad’s attorneys and supporters have lengthy argued that he was framed. The actual assassin, they are saying, used the sufferer’s blood to jot down the messages to keep away from detection by shifting the eye to the gardener.
Mr. Raddad’s DNA and his fingerprints have been by no means discovered on the crime scene.
As an alternative, in 2015, the traces of 4 unknown males have been situated on the scene due to advances in DNA expertise. An knowledgeable for Mr. Raddad later recognized the presence of 35 traces of DNA from one unknown man that was blended with the second, incomplete message written within the sufferer’s blood.
To Mr. Raddad’s supporters, the DNA traces have been left behind by the actual assassin, who had framed Mr. Raddad. However Ms. du Granrut, the sufferer’s niece, argued that proof was dealt with with much less care three many years in the past and that the DNA traces have been contamination from an unrelated supply.
The 2 sides additionally clashed on a doable motive.
Prosecutors mentioned that Mr. Raddad, who they mentioned had a playing downside, killed his employer in a match of rage after she refused to provide him an advance on his wages. His supporters say that he obtained alongside nicely with Ms. Marchal and had no motive to kill her.
After Mr. Raddad’s conviction in 1994, his lawyer mentioned that his consumer had been wrongfully convicted just because he was an Arab. Well-known intellectuals took up his trigger, led by Jean-Marie Rouart, a novelist and a longtime member of the French Academy.
“Injustice takes place all around the world,’’ Mr. Rouart mentioned in an interview after the ruling. “However it’s notably unhappy when it occurs in France which, due to Montesquieu, is taken into account the nation of justice. I’m now hopeful that justice shall be rendered.’’
Mr. Raddad’s case turned an emblem of miscarriage of justice within the widespread creativeness.
Mr. Raddad was launched after just a few years in jail due to the private intervention of King Hassan II of Morocco, the place the case had obtained intense consideration. France’s president on the time, Jacques Chirac, granted Mr. Raddad a partial pardon in 1996, however the gardener was by no means cleared of the killing.