Judge Desai’s incredible final question to Henri, Henri’s incredible answer and the secret it reveals

On November 7th 2017, Henri’s last day on the stand, Judge Siraj Desai had an interactive conversation with Henri. It was almost casual. During this easy, incidental chatter, Henri reveals a tremendous amount that was probably going on.

The pertinent aspect in the diaglogue is highlighted in bold below, but let’s do through these two minutes setp-by-step to contextualise what’s actually being said between the lines.

DESAI: One thing that bothers me, that I don’t understand. When you were in the toilet, and you saw the intruder attacking Rudi-

HENRI: Correct.

Henri’s not following Desai’s reasoning here. He’s simply confirming that part about him being in the toilet while the intruder [someone else, not him] was attacking Rudi.

DESAI: And your father came in…

HENRI: Can you repeat-

Henri has to ask Desai to repeat the question precisely because he jumped the gun.

DESAI: Before the…your father could have gone around the bed, and tried to disarm the intruder.

HENRI: Correct.

DESAI: He didn’t do that.

HENRI: No he didn’t.

Desai’s point is that in Henri’s version of events, Martin’s immediate thought was to protect Rudi who was being attacked. The implication is that Martin didn’t think he’d be attacked.  If he did, wouldn’t he have confronted the attacker?

It’s important to take this psychology further. If Martin saw Henri attacking his brother, one can see how he’d move to protect his son, thinking his very appearance on the scene would be enough to stop the bloodshed.

It’s a useful point, but I don’t think that’s how it played out. Henri wasn’t standing behind or near the bathroom door, he was standing behind the bedroom door, anticipating his father’s imment arrival. He knew the scene of his elder son bloodied would cause him to rush to Rudi’s aid, and while distracted, and with Henri coming out the door behind him, Martin wouldn’t see the first blow coming. And he didn’t. That’s why there were no defensive wounds.

This is also how and why it’s premeditated murder. It’s anticipating the next family member coming in, positioning himself in the room where he wouldn’t be seen when he rushed past, and then moving in for the kill.

I realise Desai’s not referring to a scenario like this in this discussion, which is why Henri has to awkwardly juggle his fictional version with the factual version. Henri would like to be truthful, but only as far as it gets him off the hook. But this causes Henri to make an enormous blunder.

DESAI: He went the other way and fell over Rudi.

HENRI: Well he went straight…at the guy.

Here Henri’s starting to blunder. Yes, his father went straight at Rudi. Henri stopping himself is because he has to figure out to say it. If Henri was the attacker, standing over Rudi’s bed, then he was the guy his father was heading straight towards.

DESAI: No…no he tried to protect Rudi.

HENRI: Yes. He took a beeline for the space between Rudi and…the attacker.

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Henri’s semantic choices here are very revealing. Consider the scenario where Henri is standing behind the bedroom door, obscured as his father rushes into the room. From that angle, what is his father doing? Making a beeline for Rudi. And in this scenario, it’s absolutely true, Martin as now entered the space between Rudi and the attacker – Henri. Except Henri’s behind him. Henri wants him in that space.

In the autopsy evidence we can see all of Martin’s injuries are to the back of his head and neck. Martin was the only family member who didn’t see Henri coming. Rudi was asleep as the bludgeoning began but was able to turn and try to defend himself, and he survived the attack for a few hours on the scene, before succumbing.

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DESAI: He had the option of going around the bed and disarming the attacker.

HENRI: I suppose, yes.

That ‘suppose’ indicates resistance, just as Henri resisted when Desai implied that it was unlikely an intruder would be given a key card if the family had no enemies. There’s a good reason Henri doesn’t want to concede; it’s because Desai’s portrayal makes Martin appear to be more heroic than he really was. He was heroic either way, but Desai’s version enhances it, and Henri doesn’t really like Martin’s heroism enhanced, especially not in how it favors Rudi.

DESAI: If he’d have done that [confronted the attacker, confronted Henri] he’d have saved the entire family.

HENRI: Yes…if that had happened I…I may have been able to…to…that may have…given me the courage to help…um…

Here Henri lets slip a very pertinent word: courage. In Henri’s own version of events, the attack on his family occurred because he lacked courage. In his own version, he didn’t come to the aid of any of his siblings essentially for the same reason – a lack of confidence. Although we may doubt a 20-year-old hacking his family members one by one to death seems to be the extreme of bravado, what it actually is is false bravado.

Only when Henri’s entire family is dead, in his own fairy tale, does he come up with the courage to face the attacker and disarm him. What this tells us is that, for whatever reason, Henri lacked courage and fortitude within his family. He felt emasculated next to his brother and father, he felt like a failure, he felt insignificant and humiliated. The axe provided him with the means to settle these imbalances, to regain par with the world.

When Desai stops Henri and asks him to repeat himself, Henri fumbles. He doesn’t want to repeat the telltale word “courage”. And yet five days earlier Henri had revealed precisely that in no uncertain terms.

“So in essence…you did nothing because you were scared.” ― Judge Desai, November 2nd, 2017

He hadn’t gotten angry with the intruder either. He simply stood and did nothing because he was afraid, in effect paralyzed with fear – according to him. And yet even Marli fought off her attacker, and won her battle against him.

DESAI: Sorry, what did you say?

HENRI: That…may have given me…what I…needed…to be able to overcome…what I was going to do and be able to help.

This is where Henri reveals the emotional truth of the moment, of the entire situation. Henri needed to overcome his sense of fear and intimidation. He was a 20-year-old who was trying to be a man, trying not to stutter, trying not to be a m-m-mouse. The axe gave him an almost superhuman ability to transcend his powerless situation inside the DeZalze home, but when it was over, he couldn’t reveal this terrible secret to anyone. The chuckle during the emergency call was another slip, a sneak-peak at the cruel sadistic streak hiding inside the middle child.

DESAI: It seems to me that he fell over Rudi in an endeavour to protect him.

HENRI: Yes. 

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