A German biology teacher knows the U.S. criminal justice system much better than he would like or ever dreamed he would.
But Christian Jensen, the husband of a vacationer killed two years ago in a botched robbery, headed home to Germany this weekend satisfied with two murder convictions carrying long mandatory prison terms.
"You see me smiling now. That means not that I am happy but relieved," Jensen said outside court after hearing a second set of guilty verdicts Friday. "The results are wonderful."
The killing of Barbara Meller-Jensen gained infamy as an inadvertent death at the hands of street criminals intent on a "bump-and-rob" holdup _ hitting a driver's bumper and robbing the occupants once they stop. Her murder was one of several tourist murders in South Florida that gave Miami a black eye with European tourists. The resulting publicity sharply cut into the region's international tourism.
Mrs. Meller-Jensen's killers took the technique a step further by targeting rental cars because the drivers usually carry more cash and valuables than residents. She died when their fleeing car crushed her skull April 2, 1993.
Jenson kept up with the case through a German attorney in Miami and returned for the two-week trial of Anthony Williams and Leroy Rogers. After testifying, he attended as a spectator and spoke to reporters at length in German and English at the end of each day.
Jensen's English is sometimes stilted and awkward but understandable, and he took pains to make sure he understood unfamiliar words in American reporters' questions.
"I am optimistic about your justice system. I was sometimes very critical with it," he said, noting his opposition early this month to trial attorneys interviewing his son, Alexander, the only person to give an eyewitness account.
Allowed to address Dade Circuit Court Judge Fredricka Smith on his wishes in the sentencing of Williams, 21, and Rogers, 25, Jensen asked for leniency if they implicate a third man, Lionel Twitty.
"I looked straight in their eyes and spoke to them very directly," Jensen said, hoping his appeal would help put the car's "third guy" in jail. Twitty was questioned but, unlike Williams and Rogers, gave no statement to police and was never charged.
Rogers looked up and shook his head as Jensen spoke. Williams showed no reaction.
The offer holds limited weight. Smith has no discretion on the men's first-degree murder convictions. A life term with no chance of parole for 25 years is mandatory. Her only leeway is on the strong-arm robbery conviction.
Prosecutors want to treat Williams as a violent habitual offender for two armed robbery convictions and stretch his mandatory term to 35 years at sentencing July 3.
Rogers, who has previous drug and police battery convictions, could face an additional four to nine years for the purse-snatching.