Alfred and George Degiorgio have filed a court appeal demanding a retrial, just over a fortnight after pleading guilty to the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The brothers were each sentenced to 40 years for their part in planting and detonating the car bomb that killed the journalist outside her home on October 2017. 

But in a bizarre development on Thursday, the convicted killers filed an application requesting that their trial by jury begin again.

They claimed that their last-minute admission was prompted by a lack of equality of arms, a legal right that means a fair balance should be struck between both parties in a criminal case.

On the day that their trial began, on October 14, the brothers agreed to plead guilty in exchange for more lenient sentences. 

Right to fair trial

But in their application on Thursday they argued that they were disadvantaged because their lawyer had renounced the brief weeks before the trial, while the prosecution was fully prepared for the final leg of the case. 

All their attempts to find another lawyer of choice proved futile since no lawyer would take on such a feat and consequently, the Degiorgios were each given a legal aid lawyer.

But the voluminous evidence compiled throughout the years, made it practically impossible for any lawyer to set up an adequate defence. 

Faced with such a scenario and lacking equality of arms, the brothers finally opted to go for “instant death” rather than endure “the unjust prospect of a prolonged death.”

The trial was nothing but “death by firing squad” where the prosecution was all armed “to fire away its case” whereas the accused, “hands tied and totally unarmed, were exposed to everything that could come their way," they argued.

The Degiorgios were thus appealing the order of the Criminal Court to proceed with the trial with the assistance of legal aid lawyers. 

Sentence appeal

They also appealed the sentence ultimately delivered at the trial on October 14 arguing, in the first place, that their admission and the subsequent plea bargaining was not carried out within a context of fair hearing and equality of arms.

Moreover, Alfred Degiorgio was not in a condition to totally and freely consent to that admission after days on hunger strike, they said.

That day he was escorted to court in a wheelchair and although he managed to reply to certain questions, he could not walk, could barely speak and lacked the strength to resist -even if he wanted to - his brother’s suggestion to register an admission. 

In light of such circumstances, the Degiorgios, now assisted by new lawyers, filed a joint application appealing the sentence, asking for its annulment and for their trial to be heard afresh. 

Lawyers Noel Bianco and Leslie Cuschieri signed the application.

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