How does an innocent man become a robber?
Male, 20 to 25 years old, dark complexion, possibly Moroccan, 6 foot 2 inches tall, wavy hair reaching down to his ears— this is how witnesses describe the perpetrator of a robbery at a supermarket in the German town of Eschborn. The description doesn’t apply to Christos Orfanidis at all: He is only 5 foot 7 inches tall, and he has fair skin and short straight hair. And yet Orfanidis is sentenced to two years and three months in prison for aggravated robbery. The reason? The witnesses agree: That’s him! “The way he stares, the appearance, the haircut— and that’s how he looked at me, too,” they confirm. Even when police later arrest another suspect (Hakki S.), who fits the perpetrator description almost exactly, the witnesses maintain the accusation. And that’s not all: They subsequently adjust the perpetrator description to match Orfanidis. It’s not malice— they are victims too: Their memory has replaced the real culprit with Orfanidis. Only in the third trial is he released due to a lack of evidence— despite witness statements.
THE SPITTING IMAGE? Hakki S. and Christos Orfanidis do not particularly resemble each other— still, Christos was convicted of the crime, even though Hakki was also a suspect.