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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: To collect insurance money
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 25, 1987
Date of birth: May 17, 1944
Victim profile: Kersten Kischnick
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Dade County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on November 4, 1988

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Florida Supreme Court

opinion 73492 opinion SC89564 opinion SC03-760

DC# 113993
DOB: 05/17/44

Eleventh Judicial Circuit, Dade County, Case #87-42355
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Harold Solomon
Attorney, Trial: Edward Carhart Ė Private
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Lee Weissenborn Ė Special Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals:  Terri L. Backus Ė Registry

Date of Offense:  10/25/87

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 the shooting.

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. 

Furthermore, Riechmann 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. 

Trial Summary:

01/27/88          Riechmann was indicted on the following:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder (Kersten Kischnick)

Count II:          Felony committed with a Firear

08/12/88          Riechmann was found guilty on all counts charged in the indictment.

08/30/88          Upon 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 Murder (Kersten Kischnick) Ė Death

Count II:           Felony committed with a Firearm Ė Suspended entry of sentence

Case Information:

On 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. 

The Florida 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.

On 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 03/05/01.

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 rulings. 

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 03/05/01.

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.

On 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.


German national in Florida

German 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.

Dieter 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.

While 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.

In 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.

Riechmann 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 years.

Police 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.

Evidence 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.



Summary of Dieter Riechmannís case

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. Kischnick.

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.



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