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By Wayne Howell

The courts have made up their minds, now it is your turn.

Most humans have used ridiculous excuses to prevent punishment, but if it involves vintage excuses one staff of individuals leaves all others for dead—killers.

Killer Excuses is a courtroom-drama number of one of the most outstanding defences attempted in Australian manslaughter and homicide trials—excuses like:

'I used to be attempting to exorcise a demon.'

'I'm a chauvinist and she or he missed her wifely duties.'

'I inspiration he was once a deer.'

'Her nagging made me snap.'

'We have been simply having sex...in the sea.'

The situations during this booklet are 'whydunits'. whereas 'whodunits' concentrate on catching criminals, 'whydunits' problem juries and judges to appreciate why humans kill, and to choose what our society is ready to forgive.

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Certainly, sometimes covering what happens inside courts can be hard—particularly watching youngsters start on a life of crime or sitting next to the grieving parents of a murder victim as they stoically listen to horrendous details of their loved one’s last moments—but mostly it’s intriguing. A trial, particularly a murder or manslaughter trial, is a good place to study character because people under stress and in unfamiliar surroundings tend to drop their masks. The reason for the trial—someone’s death—is stressful enough, but the pressure-cooker atmosphere created by a high-stakes adversarial contest often heats up emotions to boiling point.

Now, we just want to recover our privacy and get over this ordeal. Finally, it was Judge Crossley’s turn to give his opinion, his judgement. He told those in the dock that their ‘bizarre and quite extraordinary’ bid to exorcise demons from Mrs Vollmer had put her through a ‘cruel, painful and quite horrifying’ ordeal. He said Mrs Vollmer had been subjected to ‘considerable pain and very great indignity’. ‘All this occurred while your captive violently resisted and fought for her freedom,’ the judge said.

First, she pressed her hand against Joan’s womb. ’—she moved up her abdomen and pressed again. Next, she pushed against Joan’s left breast and then massaged her throat. All the time Mrs Vollmer was struggling—kicking at her tormentors, pulling their hair. Finally, after Klingner forced Mrs Vollmer’s mouth open, Reichenbach put her fingers inside and pressed a finger against her tongue. As she was doing this, according to Reichenbach, Joan let out a ‘growl’ and stopped breathing. Ralph Vollmer described the dying moments of his wife of three years.

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