Murder trial reopened in France 70 years after first conviction

The controversial case has been the subject of legal battles for decades

The case has been reopened by the Cour de Cassation after seven requests
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A much-publicised murder trial has reopened in France more than 70 years after the first infamous and still-contested conviction.

The case, known as the ‘Mis and Thiennot affair’, was reopened in the Cour de Cassation (Supreme Court of Appeal), after the seventh request for its review, and after 40 years of legal battle.

The justice system announced on October 5 that it would reopen the case.

Raymond Mis and Gabriel Thiennot were convicted three times between 1947 and 1950 for the murder of gamekeeper Louis Boistard in the Indre department.

The two men initially confessed to the murder, but later said their confessions had been extracted under torture, and they recanted.

They and their families have been fighting to clear their names since the 1980s, with support from the writer Léandre Boizeau, who wrote the book Ils Sont Innocents (They Are Innocent) in 1980. Mr Mis died in 2009, and Mr Thiennot in 2003.

"The Commission has agreed with all our requests, and has therefore referred the case to the Cour de Cassation,” said Jean-Pierre Mignard, lawyer for the group’s support committee, le comité de soutien Mis-et-Thiennot.

“The case will be retried with a large number of minutes and documents [obtained under torture] annulled,” he added.

Torture evidence

Evidence of Mr Mis’ torture in particular had been used as a major reason for asking the justice system to reconsider the case. The torture of Mr Thiennot has now also been acknowledged.

Another lawyer for the committee, Pierre-Emmanuel Blard, said: “The investigating committee expressly found that both Raymond Mis and Gabriel Thiennot had been subjected to violence…and that this violence had resulted in the confessions.”

It is rare for criminal cases to be reopened in France. After six unsuccessful requests from the committee, the justice system has now agreed - at the seventh time of asking - to reopen the case.

Gamekeeper death

The case related to the events of December 29, 1946, when Mr Boistard, one of two gamekeepers, did not return home after a shoot. Mr Boistard’s body was found on the morning of December 31. He had been shot with lead pellets.

Investigations at the time led to the arrest of Mr Mis and Mr Thiennot, despite suggestions from witnesses that other hunters in the area had allegedly argued with one or several gamekeepers that day, and shots reportedly having been heard on a neighbouring property.

As early as 1952, there had been media questioning of the facts and police inquiry into the murder, and the way in which the ‘confessions’ had been given.

It was not until the 1980s, however, that journalist investigations began to question the case more seriously.

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