France’s highest court sets anti-Semitic murderer free because he was high on weed when he killed a Jewish woman

April 17, 2021 • 10:30 am

Imagine if a white American guy tortured and murdered a black woman, first beating her up and kicking her while shouting “white power!” and then throwing her out the window to her death. This would, of course be all over the Western media as an example of a racist crime. And imagine further that the murderer gets off completely because the courts find that before the murder he’d smoked marijuana, so he wasn’t responsible for his deed.  Now that would, rightly, be a national scandal, all over the media of all stripes.

Now imagine instead that the murderer was an anti-Semitic Muslim who did the same thing to an Orthodox Jewish French woman who was his neighbor, crying “Allahu akbar,” uttering Muslim prayers, and then torturing her before throwing her out the window to her death. And then the courts let him off because he was high on weed.

This latter scenario actually happened, but you’re not going to read about it in the New York Times, HuffPost, the BBC, the Guardian, or The Washington Post, and you probably haven’t heard about anyway. This is because the media simply don’t consider attacks on individual Jews very newsworthy, although it’s the minority group most subject to U.S. hate crimes on a per capita basis. (Attacks on individual members of other minority groups, like blacks, Hispanics, or Asians, of course get wide press.)

The only explanation for this disparity that makes sense—at least to me—is anti-Semitism.  Now you can say that American and British journalists are ignoring this is because it happened in France, and that the French media did cover it, which the first article below, from Honest Reporting, claims (click on screenshot). So did the Jewish media. But the story is not just local: it reflects a rising tide of anti-Semitism spilling over much of Europe. Letting the murderer go in a supposedly enlightened country is especially horrific.

Further, we do know the names of Avijit Roy, the Bangladeshi blogger hacked to death for blasphemy, and of Raif Badawi, the Saudi dissident who’s still in prison after nine years, sentenced to a thousand lashes for “insulting Islam”. These kind of injustices are international outrages. Why not the death of the Orthodox Jew Sarah Halimi, which gets no mention?  Because she’s an Orthodox Jew.

Bari Weiss (whom I suppose you can count as Jewish media) also deals with the story at the second screenshot (click there, too).

Honest Reporting:

The piece above is short, and recounts events that happened in 2017. The final exculpation of the killer, though, just happened this week.

On [last] Wednesday, the Court of Cassation, the highest court in the French judiciary, upheld a 2019 Paris court decision that Kobili Traoré, who in 2017 broke into the home of his 65-year-old Orthodox Jewish neighbor, Sarah Halimi, before proceeding to beat and then kill her, was not fit to stand trial.

The police reports of the incident documents claims that Traoré shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic) before throwing her out of the balcony of her home in a clearly antisemitic crime. However, because Traoré had consumed a significant quantity of marijuana, the court ruled that he could not be held responsible for his actions.

From Bari Weiss:

Weiss’s summary:

Sarah Halimi was a retired French physician and schoolteacher. She was also an Orthodox Jew. On April 4, 2017, Halimi was in her Paris apartment where she lived alone. In the middle of the night, a 27-year-old Muslim man of Malian origin named Kobili Traoré, who lived in the building, broke into her apartment. Traoré tortured Ms. Halimi, who was in her 60s, beating her and kicking her. According to neighbors, who called the police after hearing Halimi’s cries, Traoré called her a “shaitan” (satan) and a dirty Jew. Ultimately, he threw Ms. Halimi’s battered body out of her third-story apartment window shouting “Allahu akbar.”

There are other gruesome details, but that is the basic story. It’s hard to imagine a set of facts more damning and more clear.

More of the story from The JC, linked to above:

Kobili’s behaviour was clearly problematic, since Diara Traore [an older relative of the murderer Kobili Traoré who lived in the next building] locked himself, his wife and children in one of the apartment’s rooms and called the police at 4.25am.

Three minutes later, a unit of the Anti-Crime Brigade (BAC) — who happened to be patrolling the area — took up position in front of Diara’s door.

They heard Kobili Traore chanting Muslim prayers and Koranic verses. Unsure about the situation and the potential threats to the family, they asked for reinforcements. Additional policemen arrived quickly. However, for some unclear reason, the BAC unit still refrained from breaking in.

In the meantime, Kobili Traore put on new clothes and climbed out of the window to reach Sarah Halimi’s apartment, which was at the same level as Diara Traore’s.

He allegedly assaulted the Jewish woman and hit her mercilessly. From time to time he resumed Koranic recitation. Many neighbours, woken by the old woman’s screams or the assaulter’s religious chanting, called the police.

Some gave details about the exact location of the assault, the attacker’s identity, the fact he vilified his victim as a Jewish person and as “a Satan” while hitting her, or even — as far as the Muslim neighbours were concerned — the Koranic portions he chanted.

Yet the police still failed to storm Sarah Halimi’s apartment and rescue her. Eventually, Kobili Traore is claimed to have shouted that the woman was “mad and about to commit suicide”, and threw her out of the window.

He had time enough to climb back to Diara Traore’s apartment where he finally was arrested. His hands were covered in blood. There was blood everywhere in his victim’s apartment.

Why did the cops delay?

According to Weiss, Traoré has several dozen prior convictions, but the French prosecutors dropped charges. The case went up to higher courts, and Bari wrote this on Thursday:

And so it is the case with the four-year saga of Sarah Halimi. The final injustice came yesterday, when the country’s top appeals court upheld the earlier, lower court decision that Traoré could not be held criminally responsible because he was high. Apparently smoking a joint had compromised his “discernment” and he attacked and killed Halimi not because he hated Jews, but because he was in a “delirious fit.”

As Francis Szpiner, one of the Halimi family’s lawyers, asked of the court’s strange logic: “Will this also apply to drunk drivers who kill children on the road?” The question answers itself.

The madness here does not belong to Traoré. It belongs to France.

Weiss discusses how the anti-Semitism of Alice Walker has also been ignored, and then adds this rule of thumb about how the media cover anti-Semitic attacks:

The rule of thumb, as the British writer and comedian David Baddiel has noted in his new book, is that Jews Don’t Count. But there is a more sophisticated version of this bloody arithmetic.

When a Jew is harassed by a neo-Nazi, they count. When a Jew is harassed by a person from another minority group, not so much. When a secular Jew is attacked, they count. But when a Jew with a black hat is attacked, that’s ignored. If the story suits the narrative, it counts. If it undermines it, it doesn’t.

I found this tweet yesterday, and I haven’t checked the media this morning, but, at least as of 24 hours after France’s highest court let off the murderer, there were crickets in British and American media. You’re welcome to check again.

Now the killer may be mentally ill (it’s hard to tell the difference with extremist religion), but I see no sign that he’s been institutionalized. [UPDATE: A commenter below notes that he’s been sent to a psychiatric hospital.] And people may ask me, as a determinist, that if his deeds happened after smoking a joint, how can he be held responsible? The answer is evident: he’s been a career criminal, and though killing while high may be determined by the laws of physics, the guy needs to be put away because he’s a danger to others, as a deterrent, and in hopes he can be reformed.

Finally, Weiss has some suggestions for further reading—in the New York Times, of all places:

If you are new to the subject of French anti-Semitism — a survey put by the AJC last year found that 70 percent of French Jews say they have been victims of at least one antisemitic incident in their lifetime — this piece is a good primer.

The NYT piece, from 2018, is called ‘They spit when I walked in the street’: The ‘New Anti-Semitism’ in France.

h/t: Malgorzata

24 thoughts on “France’s highest court sets anti-Semitic murderer free because he was high on weed when he killed a Jewish woman

  1. The founder of European pseudoscience-driven racism, de Gobineau, was one of France’s gifts to the world. The anti-Semitic French military establishment that framed Dreyfus was another such gift. So was the Vichy regime whose minions went the extra mile in sending as many Jews as possible to their deaths in concentraction camps in Poland and elsewhere. Why should we expect anything else from any agency of French politics?

    1. Antisemitism is the easy common bigotry in the west, as well as the middle-east. The solution is for Jews to *stop being easy victims*.and for western countries to stop kissing the butts of Muslims, regardless of how much $$$ Arab countries may have.

  2. I noticed in the comments yesterday that people were saying he was institutionalized and they were critical of Bari for leaving that out, but I don’t know where they got that info.
    If true, she’s guilty of doing what she accuses others in the media of doing, leaving out important info that doesn’t fit the narrative..
    Obviously, if this guy just gets sent home that would be truly outrageous.

    1. According to the French Wikipedia entry, Traoré was sentenced to 20 years in a psychiatric hospital (with measures to safeguard him):

      “Saisie d’un appel du parquet, le 19 décembre 2019, la cour d’appel de Paris conclut que le discernement de Kobili Traoré était aboli, au sens de l’article 122-1 du Code pénal, et qu’il ne pouvait donc pas être jugé pour ce crime dont elle confirme les motivations antisémites18,19. La cour d’appel de Paris ordonne également son hospitalisation assortie de mesures de sûreté pour vingt ans.

      Saisie d’un pourvoi des parties civiles, la Cour de cassation confirme la décision de la Cour d’appel le 14 avril 2021. Cette décision ne remet donc pas en cause son hospitalisation psychiatrique ordonnée par la justice ni le caractère antisémite du crime.

  3. Kobili Traoré is not walking free for the record. He is committed to a psychiatric hospital, a priori for 20 years. It will be very hard for him to get out of there as a panel of doctors have to establish with great confidence that he is not dangerous anymore.

      1. Clearly so! This has been well covered in France on the contrary, with at times passionated debates about the contentious aspects you highlighted. Here is the Google translation of a page of Le Monde, one of the top newspaper in France, mentioning he is sectioned.

      2. The original judgement in 2019 was covered by the Independent and the story was covered by the Guardian in Nov 2018.

      3. Jerry, if Traoré has been sentenced to 20 years in a mental hospital, then it is not true that he has been “set free”, as you claim in your headline.

        I recently saw a documentary about the Yorkshire Ripper, a guy who murdered at least thirteen women between 1975 and 1980. This murderer, much worse than Traoré, was also favored by psychiatrists. He only spent one year and four months in jail. Thanks to the psychiatrists, the remainder of his sentence he enjoyed much more comfortable conditions in a psychiatric hospital.

        1. “Thanks to the psychiatrists, the remainder of his sentence he enjoyed much more comfortable conditions in a psychiatric hospital.”

          I don’t think ‘enjoy’ is a particularly appropriate term here. Rampton, Broadmoor and Ashworth Secure hospitals would not constitute anyone’s idea of a holiday camp.

          As has been discussed many times here in relation to free will, the idea of making life as unpleasant as possible for offenders as punishment for their offence is of dubious merit. Incarceration should be designed to prevent (or try to) crime from happening and should seek to rehabilitate those offenders capable of being rehabilitated while keeping those that can’t safely behind bars where they can do no more harm to society at large. I accept that the deterrent effect of the potential deprivation of liberty is also an important part of the equation and it would hardly be appropriate to turn prisons or secure hospitals into five star hotels but we are a million miles from that.

          The crimes of Traoré and Sutcliffe were odious in the extreme and both men were rightly locked away. I personally have no issue with a professional medical judgement determining that the best way to deal with these men is through detention in a secure hospital if this means they can no longer harm anyone. Clearly, if the legal fate of Traoré was the consequence of an anti-semitic legal system, as opposed to objective medical assessment, that would be a very different matter and utterly reprehensible. I am not convinced that it has been shown that this was the case.

          Coverage or lack of it in the press might reflect anti-semitism though I would say that the court decision just announced was the upholding of the original court’s decision after an appeal and in that sense was perhaps less newsworthy than the original court case as it did not result in any change of the offenders circumstances. Here in the UK the media has been given over to more or less blanket coverage of the shock death, of natural causes in the comfort of his own home of a 99 year-old man.

  4. I get an email from Weiss and read this earlier. Your ‘imaginings,’ Jerry, are the merest tip of an iceberg. If what you posit were to happen in New York or my home town of Seattle, we would
    Be writing a new constitution.

  5. Nobody murders when they’re high on weed. Weed makes you mellow. Maybe he was drinking as well? Or doing some other drug?

    Maybe this story really isn’t about excusing a murderer, it’s anti-weed.

    1. This may well be the case for some people. However, if you ask a psychiatrist and I used to know one socially who I asked, you will be told that Cannabis does cause psychosis in some people and it makes it worse in those who have it.

  6. I can’t speak to French law, but, FWIW, under US law voluntary intoxication at the time an offense is committed is NOT a defense to a criminal charge.

    Moreover, again under US law, a defendant’s state of mind at the time the offense is committed is orthogonal to the question of the defendant’s competency to stand trial. As to the latter issue, the relevant considerations are whether the defendant is capable of understanding the nature and severity of the charges pending against him or her and whether the defendant is capable of communicating with counsel, such that he or she can assist counsel in the preparation and presentation of his or her defense.

    Finally, although practice varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction in the US, a defendant who is found incompetent to stand trial is usually sent to a secure psychiatric facility until the treating psychiatrist reports that the defendant has recovered sufficiently to stand trial (at which time the court will convene a hearing, at which all concerned parties are present, to take evidence on the issue). Where a defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity, the offender will also usually be committed to a secure mental facility until and unless the treating professionals report to the court that he or she is no longer suffering from a debilitating mental disorder and no longer presents a threat to society (at which time, the court will also convene a hearing to consider evidence on the matter. Courts also generally receive periodic reports from the treating professionals during the pendency of such treatment).

  7. The only explanation for this disparity that makes sense—at least to me—is anti-Semitism.

    … coupled with a desire to excuse and ignore any bad behaviour that might reflect badly on the “religion of peace”.

  8. Beside representing the Religion of Peace, Kobili Traoré is also an African, who by woke doctrine are
    incapable of racism, an offense limited to individuals of European ancestry. So, it must have been something else, such as chemically induced hallucinations. These emanations of the invisible world can explain everything if need be. Just as the slightest, trifling miscomprehension could be a sign of invisible implicit bias, so plainly racist brutality and murder could be a sign of possession by the evil spirit in weed.

  9. This is horrifying, and you’re absolutely right about the lack of coverage and why that coverage is lacking. It’s not part of the narrative, so it’s discarded as unimportant or, even worse, inconvenient.

    As I noted when the uproar over attacks against people of Asian descent began a few months ago, such attacks had been happening in the same place — New York City, largely — against Jews for years, but with no reporting or outrage. When shooters from the Black Hebrew Israelites killed multiple Jews in Jersey City in 2019, there was a vigil held…in support of a local school board member who made multiple anti-Semitic tweets and Instagram posts in the wake of the massacre, calling Jews “brutes” and asking if people were ready to listen to the “message” the shooters were trying to send. That school board member not only wasn’t forced to resign and received public support when the Governor of NJ called on her to do so, but was reelected in 2020, and her new term runs through 2022. You’ll find precious little written about this. And how long were the organizers of the Women’s March allowed to stay in their positions, printing money and making political connections, long after their antisemitism and connections to Louis Farakhan were exposed? Well over a year, at least. I could go on, but why bother…

    The scariest thing about antisemitism for me is that it has a home on both the left and the right, and that it only seems to be worsening while the media takes less and less of an interest in it. Perhaps the media’s lack of care is a reflection of all the “activist journalists” now flooding the occupation. I don’t know. All I do know is that antisemitism is common, it’s widespread, it’s growing, and very few people seem to give a hoot.

  10. It was my impression that even hate crimes that make national news are rarely reported internationally. According to the OSCE and their most recent stats (2019), French police lists 7 hate crimes with homicide that year, (filed under racism and xenophobia). Germany had 16 such incidents, of which 1 was tagged anti-semitic. The UK data doesn’t show the type of crime, but lists 1205 anti-semitic incidents (France: 741, Germany: 273, Poland: 136). See the site here. Add Spain, Canada, Italy and so on, and American journalists could report some incident all the time.

    The incidents that tend to make it to the US or international press have an angle that also interests American or international readers or have a striking sensationalist element to it, like the murder of Samuel Paty, which also concerned American readers because of its “free speech” and islamic terrorism angles.

    Interestingly, this case did gather international attention, “In France, murder of a Jewish woman ignites debate over the word ‘terrorism’” titled the Washington Post (7/23/2017). Further, the new complaint about alleged silence is not about such the incident, but about a court ruling three years later. I doubt that it must have been reported instantly by the international press within 12 or 24 hours. But in the meantime, stories of the court ruling were published, e.g. “Highest French Court Rules Killer of Jewish Woman Cannot Stand Trial” reporter the New York Times (4/17/21).

    This starts to fall apart quickly. Further, the court that dismissed the sentence did not acquit, or even looked at the details of the case, but ruled according to a law for people under the influence of some substance. Such laws could be critisized, but it has apparently nothing to do with Weiss’ narrative. The perpetrator also does not walk free. He was put into a psychiatric ward.

    The real case is Bari Weiss apparent far right agenda pushing. US and British far right wingers have repeatedly shown interest in helping the French far right. That’s where the hand fits the glove. Such cases are often pieces that represent larger political controversies, and are used to push certain narratives. In France, the far right and identitarian elements could gather influence with Marine LePen (they are in some respects the Ur Alt Right). I think the true agenda is eventually anti European, and eventuelly why Weiss and others are into such cases.

    I remember how Weiss smuggled white supremacists and far right wingers into the mainstream under the guise of the “IDW” which she popularised in the NYT. Suddenly, a group around Sam Harris and others had company of Molyneux and PragerU types. This seems to be Bari Weiss true political location, her concern is, her words ”the moral calamity sweeping the West of which this was only the clearest (and at the time most recent) example”.

  11. As far as I can understand, the accused person has a history of psychotic behaviour (possibly intrinsic or drug aggravated), a violent history and a lengthy record of dealing in and using drugs (he claimed to be smoking 10 spliffs per day) and has been under observation in a psychiatric institution for four years.

    Having finally killed somebody, it seems obvious that his mental condition be taken into consideration both from the point of view of his own defense and also by the prosecution since it will alter any likliehood of success with any criminal charges they could bring.

    It seems that the judges involved could not formulate a feasible argument under French law whereby he could be reasonably criminally charged without his making a plea for something resembling “temporary insanity”, diminished responsibility, mitigating circumstances, lack of mens rea (guilty intent) etc.

    I went through some of the French documentation and reporting on the story and found that the term “bouffée délirante aigüe” was used by the court.
    This was in one place badly translated as “a sharp puff of delirium”.

    I found that “bouffée délirante” has a fprecise meaning in French law, translates better as a “surge of delirium” or “raptus” and is usually used to denote a “psychotic episode”, in this particular case “acute”. Acute can mean severe but is also implicitly of short duration.
    So we have “acute psychotic episode” after taking cannabis, but not necessarily DUE only to taking cannabis.
    “Bouffée délirante” has an entry under Wiki which states that it is a precise psychiatric disorder with a 2019 definition within World Health Organization’s International Classification of Disease.
    This implies that the judges were not seeing this as something caused just by “smoking weed”.

    This means that, if there is no viable criminal action to be taken, the perpetrator will be put under psychiatric care. The antisemitic element (seen as an aggravation of the underlying violence and murder) will not be taken forward by the court since there is then no underlying criminal case to answer.

    At this point, President Macron intervened (during a visit to Israel), saying that “even if, in the end, the judge decided that there was no criminal responsibility, there is a need for a trial.”
    This is illogical under law, since, if there is no criminal responsililty, there CANNOT even BE a trial.

    This was then seen as interference by a polititian in the neutrality of the judiciary.
    One judge responded:
    “the independence of the justice system, of which the president of the Republic is the guarantor, is an essential factor in the functioning of democracy.”

    The accused can also now claim that, because the President has put pressure on the judiciary to bring him to criminal trial, his possibility of a fair trial has been tampered with for reasons of political and public interest.

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