Cantat, France await outcome of murder trial

  • 2004-03-25
  • By Steven Paulikas
VILNIUS - Bertrand Cantat, the French rock star accused of murdering his girlfriend Marie Trintignant in a Vilnius hotel room last summer, will soon be handed a sentence in a Lithuanian courtroom following an extended and emotionally intense trial closely watched by European media.

Cantat, who has admitted delivering the blows that caused the death of Trintignant, a prominent French actress with whom he was romantically involved at the time of the incident, will be read the final verdict of the Vilnius District Court on March 29.
The decision, eagerly awaited by millions in France, which has been obsessed by the incident that involved two of its most popular celebrities, comes exactly one week after the singer issued a tearful plea for forgiveness in court.
Addressing the court for 10 minutes, Cantat, 40, said he accepted responsibility for what had happened and begged absolution from Trintignant's family.
"I know that I am not capable of doing anything. I know that all I can do is ask for forgiveness, just as I have done from the outset," he said.
"I loved Marie with all my heart, and I will always love her. And I am thinking at all times of her family, of her children... and I know what despair I have put them in," he said.
According to Virginijus Papirtis, Cantat's chief legal counsel, the musician's statement was entirely heartfelt.
"I advised him more or less on what he could say and what he shouldn't say from a legal standpoint. But the actual content of his speech was composed only by him," Papirtis told The Baltic Times by telephone just minutes after visiting his client at Vilnius' Lukiskes Isolation Unit.
As much sentiment as Cantat, who was once the lead singer of the popular rock group Noir Desir and a high-profile campaigner against domestic violence, may have put into his speech, the prosecution and Trintignant's family rejected suggestions of sympathy for him.
In his final statement to the court, prosecutor Vladimiras Sergejevas said Cantat had "provoked and escalated the conflict" and recommended a sentence of nine years imprisonment.
According to Lithuanian law, the charge of unpremeditated murder - of which Cantat is accused - can carry a sentence of five to 15 years' imprisonment, and the legal team representing the Trintignant family has vowed to push for a harsher punishment than prosecutors suggested.
"In the pre-trial investigation, [Cantat] admitted his guilt, something he hasn't since denied. Experts have testified that the blows were delivered with especially strong force. And for this violent crime, the prosecutors have sought a sentence even lower than the median amount of time, which would be 10 years," said Kazimieras Modeka, a lawyer retained by the Trintignant family.
Cantat's legal team, on the other hand, has petitioned the court to reduce the charge to manslaughter, which would carry a maximum sentence of four years in a Lithuanian prison.
But according to Modeka, the crime in question does not fit the reduced charge sought by the defense.
"Let's look at the facts: According to testimony provided by the defendant himself, he did absolutely nothing to help Ms. Trintignant after he hit her. He said he thought she was sleeping on the floor and simply left the room. It's difficult to believe that an educated person such as he is could think this," said Modeka.
But the defense maintains that such a lengthy sentence for the contrite Cantat would be unjust.
Still undecided on the possibility of appeal, Papirtis claims that his client, who has already spent almost eight months by himself in a small cell at Lukiskes, has already suffered much.
"We have not changed our defense in any way. He will carry his punishment-the knowledge of what he has done-for the rest of his life."
For her part, the mother's victim, Nadine Trintignant, told the court she did not buy in to Cantat's show of remorse.
Following her daughter's death on Aug. 1 of last year from the estimated 19 blows Cantat inflicted on her, she published a book in which she blamed the singer for subjecting her family to an unforgettable tragedy.
"The two children of this man, apparently such a good father, have become the children of a murderer," Nadine Trintignant told the court.
Marie Trintignant had four sons, though none of them were from Cantat.