Judicial Circuit, Dade County, Case #87-42355
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable
Attorney, Trial: Edward Carhart
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Lee
Weissenborn Ė Special Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals:
Terri L. Backus Ė Registry
Date of Offense:
Date of Sentence: 11/04/88
Circumstances of Offense:
Dieter Riechmann was convicted
and sentenced to death for the murder of Kersten Kischnick.
On 11/04/88, Kischnick was shot
to death in Miami Beach while she sat in the passenger seat of
Riechmannís rental car.
Riechmann claimed that a stranger shot
Kischnick when they stopped to ask directions in Miami Beach. He said
that, after the shooting, he drove around Miami in a panic trying to
find help. Riechmann, however, was not able to provide details about
Riechmann and Kischnick had been
together for 13 years and had come from Germany to visit Florida. The
prosecutors believed that Riechmann killed her for financial gain. They
theorized that Riechmann was Kischnickís pimp, and he killed Kischnick
when she wanted to stop working as a prostitute.
had taken out more than $961,000 in German life insurance policies on
Kischnick between 1978 and 1985. These policies included homicide as
accidental death; therefore, Riechmann would be able to collect on
Kischnickís death, even if she was murdered.
Riechmann and Kischnick
also filed reciprocal wills naming each other as the sole heir of each
otherís estates in June of 1987. Finally, Riechmann used his Dinerís
Club Card to rent the car, which also insured the passengers.
The police searched Riechmannís
motel room and found three firearms and ammunition. An expert firearm
examiner determined that the bullet used to kill Kischnick was the same
kind as the ones found in Riechmannís room and that two of the three
firearms could have been used to shoot Kischnick.
An expert for the
prosecution determined that Riechmann had fired a gun based upon the
police swab of his hand to test for gunpowder residue at the scene. A
defense expert, however, argued that this only proved that Riechmann was
in the vicinity of the gun as it was fired.
A serologist, provided by
the State, testified that the blood found within the driverís side of
the car could not have splattered where it did if someone had been
sitting in the driverís seat. Furthermore, Riechmann should have had
blood splatters on his clothing rather than the blood stains according
to the stateís serologist expert witness.
01/27/88 Riechmann was indicted on the following:
Count I: First-Degree
Count II: Felony committed
with a Firear
08/12/88 Riechmann was found guilty on all counts charged in
advisory sentencing, the jury, by a majority vote of 9 to 3, voted for
the death penalty.
11/04/88 Riechmann was sentenced as follows:
Count I: First-Degree
Felony committed with a Firearm Ė
Suspended entry of
12/30/88, Riechmann filed a Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court.
Riechmann addressed several issues. The first issue addressed was that
the court should not have admitted Riechmannís previous statements
because he was not told of his 5th Amendment rights and
because the police coerced the statements. The next issue presented was
that the hand swab should not have been permitted because it was coerced
and the search warrant was not valid.
Another issue addressed by Riechmannís appeal was that the evidence collected in Germany should not
have been permitted. Riechmann finally argued that his four prior
convictions in Germany should not have been admitted into evidence. The
four convictions include solicitation of perjury, involuntary
manslaughter, grand theft of an automobile, and forgery.
Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence on 05/30/91. A
Mandate was issued on 09/27/91.
Riechmann filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States
Supreme Court on 12/12/91. The Petition for Writ of Certiorari was
denied on 11/06/92.
Riechmann filed a 3.850 Motion on 09/30/94 in the Miami-Dade Circuit
Court. On 05/13-17/96, 6/11/96, 7/17-19/96, the Circuit Court held
evidentiary hearings on the issues. The circuit court found merit with Riechmannís claim of ineffective counsel at the penalty phase and that
the prosecutor wrote the sentencing order instead of the judge. The
Circuit Court granted a new sentencing hearing on 11/05/96. However, the
court dismissed the rest of the claims presented by Riechmann, which
included issues of ineffective counsel during other portions of the
trial and newly discovered evidence.
12/23/96, the State of Florida filed a 3.850 Appeal because the Circuit
Court vacated Riechmannís death sentence and granted a new sentencing
hearing. Riechmann also filed a 3.850 Appeal on 12/23/96 because the
circuit court denied most of his claims.
The Florida Supreme Court
remanded the case to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing on
02/24/00, which will be held after a decision is rendered regarding the
3.850 Motion filed by Riechmann on 11/30/99. A Mandate was issued on
Riechmann filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on 06/15/98. He
addressed several issues in the appeal. The first issue addressed was
that post-conviction and appellate counsel was ineffective. Another
issue presented questioned the appropriateness of the trial courtís
Riechmann also argued that there was a violation of his equal
protection by the court. The Florida Supreme Court denied the Petition
for Writ of Habeas Corpus on 02/24/00. A Mandate was issued on
Riechmann filed a 3.850 Motion in the Miami-Dade Circuit Court on
11/30/99. The motion was denied on 02/28/03.
Riechmann filed a 3.850 Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on
04/28/03. The appeal is currently pending.
01/24/06, Reichmann filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the
Florida Supreme Court. The petition was denied on 09/21/06.
national in Florida
nationals Dieter Riechmann and Kersten Kischnick, life companions for 13
years, arrived in Florida in early October 1987 for a vacation. On the
evening of 25 October 1987, Kischnick was shot in the right side of the
head in the passenger seat of their rental car.
Riechmann, who had contacted police immediately after the murder, was
arrested a few days later and jailed on a minor federal gun charge which
was dismissed two months later. He was released from custody in December
1987, only to be immediately re-arrested by the Miami police and charged
with the murder.
At trial, the prosecution argued that Riechmann lived
off Kischnick's earnings as a prostitute and killed her for insurance
money when she became too ill to work.
Riechmann was being held in detention on the gun charge, the couple's
apartment in south-west Germany was searched by local police officers.
Further searches were carried out in the following months in the
presence of the trial prosecutor from Florida, who also conducted
numerous interviews among colleagues and acquaintances of the couple.
contrast, the defence attorney billed the courts for less than 20 hours
of time spent on pre-trial investigations. Riechmann was convicted of
first degree murder with the aggravating circumstances of pecuniary gain
and premeditation. He was sentenced to death on 4 November 1988.
has asserted his innocence from the outset, maintaining that Kischnick
was shot at close range by a stranger outside the car. He alleges that
after dining out, he and Kischnick had lost their bearings in one of
Miami's poorer neighbourhoods. When Riechmann pulled over to the kerb,
Kischnick rolled down the window to ask a man for directions. According
to Riechmann, the man shot his companion in one of the first in a series
of random tourist killings carried out in Miami over the following
records indicate that Riechmann was not informed upon detention of his
right to notify the German Consulate in Miami for assistance, nor was
the consulate automatically notified of his arrest as required under
Florida law. However, since the victim was also a German national, her
death had been reported to the German consular authorities in Miami.
in support of Riechmann's version of events was presented at a hearing
in May 1996, including findings from experts on firearms and blood
spatter patterns and testimony from two eyewitnesses to the shooting.
Based on its findings of ineffective assistance of counsel, the state's
misconduct in withholding exculpatory evidence and errors in the penalty
phase of his trial, the court upheld Riechmann's conviction but ordered
that he be re-sentenced.
The order for a new sentencing hearing was
upheld by the Florida Supreme Court on 24 February 2000. In a recent
development, another person is alleged to have confessed to shooting Kersten Kischnick.
of Dieter Riechmannís
At 10:32 p.m. on October 25,
1987, Miami Beach Police Officer Kelley Reid saw a red Thunderbird
rental car stop at what she believed was a traffic light at Indian Creek
Dr. and 67th St. She then noticed that driver was signaling for her. The
driver was Dieter Riechmann. Officer Reid walked up to his car. As she
approached, she heard him say, "Help me, my girl." When she looked
inside the car, she found a woman sitting in the passenger front seat.
The woman, Kersten Kischnick, had been shot once, on the right side of
her head just behind and above her right ear.
Mr. Riechmann and Ms. Kischnick
were German tourists who had been vacationing in America for nearly a
month. They had traveled throughout the Southeast, but had recently
returned to Miami to catch their flight back to Germany. They had been
life-long companions for nearly 13 years. Ms. Kischnick worked as a
prostitute in Germany where prostitution was and is legal.
On the evening of October 25,
1987, Mr. Riechmann and Ms. Kischnick had dinner at a Bayside restaurant
in Miami. They shared twelve drinks during dinner. According to Mr.
Riechmann, they got lost on their way back to their Miami Beach hotel.
Mr. Riechmann decided to stop and ask someone on the street for
directions. With the passenger side window lowered, Mr. Riechmann pulled
the car up next to a black man to ask for directions. The man said just
a moment, walked to another car, and then returned with something in his
hand. Mr. Riechmann got scared. As hit the accelerator to leave, he
heard an explosion. He soon realized that Kersten had been shot when he
heard her making wheezing sounds. When he reached around to hold her
head, he discovered that his hand was covered in blood.
Mr. Riechmann drove wildly
through the streets of Miami looking for a police officer. When he
finally found one in Miami Beach, he tried to relate his story in broken
English. At 11:30 p.m., he was placed in a holding cell for several
hours. When he was removed from the holding cell, he was told the police
had made a mistake. The police then accompanied him to his hotel room
where they seized three guns, shoes, his passport, and the blood-stained
clothes he had worn in the car.
During the next four days, Mr.
Riechmann was asked to retell his account over and over. He was driven
around by police and asked if he could identify the spot where the
shooting happened. He was unable to recognize the exact location, but
said the area of 63rd and Biscayne Blvd. looked familiar. On October
29th, police secretly taped a four-to-five hour interview with Mr.
Riechmann. At the conclusion of this interview, Mr. Riechmann was
arrested by ATF agents on federal gun charges. The charges alleged that
Mr. Riechmann had violated federal law when he purchased the guns that
police seized from his hotel room. Mr. Riechmann remained in custody
until his federal trial.
The federal gun charges went to
trial December 27, 1987. At the end of the governmentís case, the judge
dismissed two of the three counts for lack of evidence. The jury
acquitted Mr. Riechmann on the third charge. When Mr. Riechmann walked
out of the federal courtroom on December 30th, Miami Beach detectives
were waiting for him. He was arrested and charged with the murder of Ms.
The murder charges were
prosecuted by Kevin DiGregory and Beth Sreenan of the Dade County State
Attorneyís Office. A month-long trial began on July 13, 1988. Mr.
Riechmann was represented by Edward Carhart.
The Stateís case was based on
three parts: First, the State introduced evidence that Mr. Riechmann was
the beneficiary of several life insurance policies on Ms. Kischnick. The
State argued that these policies gave Mr. Riechmann a motive. Second,
the State introduced forensic evidence that it said implicated Mr.
Riechmann. His hands showed traces of gunpowder residue (both of them in
equal amounts, not the expected result unless two hands are used to
fired the gun). After testing a blanket that was found in the car three
times, State examiners finally got a positive result for the presence of
presumptive blood on the blanket on which Mr. Riechmann was sitting at
the time he asserted Ms. Kischnick was shot (although the defense
contested not only the validity of the result, but also the probable
contamination of the crime scene on the night of the shooting). And
finally, the State relied on a jailhouse informant who not only claimed
to be a former KGB agent, but also that Mr. Riechmann had made
incriminating statements and had behaved in an incriminating fashion
while they were incarcerated together. The glue that held the Stateís
case together was a vicious attack on Mr. Riechmannís character because
his girlfriend was a prostitute. This undermined his testimony when he
was called to testify during the defense case.
After the jury returned a guilty
verdict, a jubilant Beth Sreenan in a taped media interview expressed
her surprise and pleasure at the verdict. The State then got a death
recommendation from the jury. The judge imposed a sentence of death, and
the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence during Mr.
Riechmannís direct appeal to that court.
At a post-conviction hearing
held in 1996, Mr. Riechmannís collateral counsel presented two witnesses
who had observed the shooting. According to these witnesses, the area
where the shooting happened was frequented by drug dealers who waited
for people to stop and make drug buys. They saw a car with two white
occupants stop. And they saw a black man named Mark approach the car
with a gun. They heard a shot as the car sped away. This was the same
area Mr. Riechmann told police looked familiar.
The judge in 1996 did not
overturn Mr. Riechmannís conviction because he found these two witnesses
not credible enough without more corroboration. The judge did find,
however, that the original trial judge had engaged in improper ex parte
communication with one of the prosecutors while imposing the death
sentence and the prosecutors had improperly withheld 37 German witness
statements from the defense. As a result, Mr. Riechmannís death sentence
was vacated, and a re-sentencing was ordered. On appeal to the Florida
Supreme Court, the denial of a new trial and the decision granting a re-sentencing
were both affirmed.
Meanwhile, a German journalist,
Peter Mueller, began to investigate the case. On August 25, 1998, Mr.
Mueller interviewed a person by the name of Mark Dugen. During the
interview, Mr. Dugen described how a large rental car with two white
occupants had stopped on 63rd Street, near Biscayne Blvd. Mr. Dugen was
in the neighborhood selling drugs. Mr. Dugen assumed the occupants of
the car wanted to purchase drugs, so he approached the car. He noticed
that the occupants were wearing lots of jewelry. They "got like really
nervous and got like really freaked out." Mr. Dugen decided to rob them.
He pulled a gun out. He fired a shot and the car sped away. On December
10, 1998, Peter Muellerís radio broadcast of the Dugen interview was
published on German radio.
Mr. Mueller continued his
investigation even after broadcasting Mr. Dugenís confession to this
murder. In 2000, he was able to locate the jailhouse informant who had
claimed to be a former KGB agent, Walter Smykowski. In November of 2000,
Mr. Mueller conducted a video interview of Mr. Smykowski in which Mr.
Smykowski admitted that his testimony at Mr. Riechmannís trial was false.
Thereafter, Mr. Mueller prepared
a television documentary of his investigation of the Riechmann case. It
was broadcast on German television.
Mr. Riechmann has filed a motion
for a new trial relying in part upon the German radio and television
broadcasts and the new information uncovered by Mr. Mueller.