Finally, after six and a half years in prison, nurse Lucia de Berk was cleared of murder and attempted murder. In 2003, she had been convicted of seven counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder of children and elderly patients, and had been sentenced to life in prison.
The reasoning the court in The Hague, which originally sentenced her, was full of logical and statistical fallacies. First, it was claimed that the chance that all the patients who died in Ms. De Berk’s care, died incidentally while she was on duty, was 1 in 342 million. This “big number”, which turned out to be incorrect – the real chance of this many deaths occurring to one nurse in Lucia’s circumstances, is 1 in 44! – persisted through all the investigations, and blinded the judges to evidence Lucia was innocent. Secondly, only two crimes – one “murder” and one “attempted murder” – were said to be individually proven. In both cases, the evidence had been fabricated by the court. The other eight cases were said to have been proven because of the first two and a number of attacks on Ms. De Berk’s character.
Lucia may or may not have been mentally ill. It is a fact that she had a history of prostitution, and that she entered nursing school with a false high school diploma. It is also a fact that she was inconsistent in her reports on the actions she was accused of – but then again, everyone involved in this trial, displayed inconsistencies within their testimonies. All of these factors were used to create a very negative image of her, which is, of course, classist and ableist. In turn, this negative image was used to take vague statements, such as her admitting to a “compulsion” in her diary on the day one of the “victims” died, as evidence for an irresistable urge to kill. Note that, apparently, in Dutch, but not in English – and Ms. De Berk was educated in Canada -, “compulsion” has some associations with violence. Lucia’s real compulsion, apparently, was to lay tarot cards for her patients – something she indeed could have been fired for if caught, so it isn’t like she had no reason to hide this.
The court in Arnhem, which took on the trial after the Supreme Court had the case reopened in 2008, destroyed all arguments. Lucia was convicted of some offenses, such as the falsification of her high school diploma and stealing medications, but she was not punished for these. The head of the Public Prosecutor’s office apologized to her personally. In my opinion, this is not enough and Lucia de Berk ought to be compensated.