Prof: Demjanjuk healthier than he lets on

Dec. 15, 2009 at 5:23 PM

AMHERST, Mass., Dec. 15 (UPI) -- John Demjanjuk, an elderly Cleveland-area man accused of Nazi war crimes, is healthier than he appears, a law professor who observed his trial in Germany says.

Lawrence Douglas, the James J. Grosfeld professor of law, jurisprudence and social thought at Amherst College in Massachusetts, who covered two days of the Munich trial for Harper's magazine before it was interrupted because the defendant has a fever, said he believes Demjanjuk is "much more fit" than his prone appearance in court would suggest, The Republican newspaper in Springfield, Mass., reported Tuesday.

"He's basically laying on a gurney looking like he's been rolled out of the ICU [intensive care unit]," the law professor said, calling it part of "a very conscious strategy" by defense lawyers to gain sympathy.

Douglas told The Republican a court doctor he had lunch with told him Demjanjuk "presents a much more fit presence than in court" and has been flirting with his 30-year-old therapist.

The retired Cleveland autoworker is accused of having been a guard at the Sobibor extermination camp during World War II. Prosecutors allege Demjanjuk helped force 27,900 Jews to their deaths in the Holocaust, but Demjanjuk denies it. Demanjuk's lawyers contend he was a Ukrainian soldier in the Russian army who was captured and had no choice but to work as a guard in the camp, the newspaper said.

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