The little woman in the pink down jacket laughs mischievously at the cameras as she enters the courtroom: "thank you very much, that's an honor." Her shaggy, feminine hair is unkempt. The 87-year-old comes straight out of custody in a prison in gelsenkirchen, where she had to spend nine days. "Oma gertrud" moves the murmurs, many want to help the old lady with the meager pension.
Five days before christmas eve, the wuppertal district court hears her case. The courtroom is full. The 87-year-old is accused of 22 counts of fare evasion on german railroad trains – what the lawyers call "beforderungserschleichung". This is not the first time she has been in court for this, only in june she was sentenced to 400 euros fine.
As the prosecutor's representative lists the trap, an aerial streetcar whizzes past the window. In some cases, according to the prosecution, it was late at night when she was caught. The old lady is very mobile and obviously homeless by now: "I sleep here, I sleep there", she says. She sleeps in the trains? Why she has no social housing? Such questions will no longer be answered on thursday.
Expert was "demented
Because now psychiatrist ulrich lange has the word and with the good humor of "grandma gertrud" it's over all of a sudden. Again and again she interrupts the expert, harasses him, insinuates that he is telling the truth and even that he is demented. Her defender finds it difficult to reassure her. Five times she is admonished by judge markus schlosser.
What the expert reveals about her mental life displeases the woman, who had classified herself as physically and mentally fit. On the one hand, the rusty lady is "quite smart" and had cunningly blocked his hidden questions about her inner state, explains the psychiatrist. On the other hand, her statements are erratic and confused. "One must have the suspicion that a psychotic event is there."
He attests that she has a disturbance of thinking and concentration, and that her behavior is "borderline" for a woman of her age. She reported voices calling her name in prison. And she is convinced that the chancellor wants to deport old people like her to poland.
Doubts about culpability
"Oma Gertrud" meanwhile, she grumbles quietly to herself. "Tomorrow I'll be out again anyway", she had the "shrink" let know the day before in the detention center. She should be right and it is the psychiatrist who opens the door to her freedom: considerable doubts about the guilt and negotiating ability, so his conclusion is.
District court judge schlosser cannot and will not disregard this. "The trial is suspended", he explains. The mental condition of the woman must first be clearly clarified. "The arrest order is lifted. You are free and can go", says the lawyer. Applause erupts in the courtroom.
"Thank you", the senior citizen, who has regained her good humor, calls out to the spectators before leaving the court through the front entrance.