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CALIFORNIA

Annika Östberg to be released in May 2011

Annika Östberg Deasy, who sat in a US prison for 28 years for her role in two murders, has had her life sentence reduced and will be released sometime in May 2011.

Annika Östberg to be released in May 2011

According to a ruling handed down on Monday by the district court in Örebro in central Sweden, Östberg needs a transitional period of one and half years before she can be allowed to return to society.

As a result, her life sentence has been reduced to 45 years.

According to Swedish law, convicted criminals are eligible for release after serving two-thirds of their sentence. In Östberg’s case, that corresponds with a release some time in May 2011.

The court gave great weight to the long time Östberg spent in prison and the limited number of furloughs she was granted. The court also took into consideration the fact that Östberg has a limited understanding of Swedish society after having been inside a US prison for so many years.

Östberg was transferred to Hinseberg women’s prison outside of Örebro from a prison in California last spring. In October she was moved to Färingsö prison, which is a lower security facility.

Prosecutors and the National Board of Forensic Medicine (Rättsmedicinalverket) argued during court proceedings last week that Östberg ran a medium- to high-risk of reverting to a life of crime upon release.

“As far as her punishment is concerned, Annika Östberg has paid for her crime. But the question has been raised as to whether it’s too early to change the sentence,” said prosecutor Gunnar Brodin at the hearing.

The Örebro District court ruled, however, that there is not a major risk of Östberg reverting to violent crime.

As a result, the court found that there was no reason not to reduce her sentence.

Östberg moved to California with her mother in the 1960s, and suffered from serious drug problems before running away from home as a teenager.

She later started a relationship with a drug dealer, Brian Cox. In April 1981, the couple argued with restaurant owner, Joe Torre, over money which resulted in Cox shooting Torre dead.

The next day, Cox and Östberg’s were fixing a flat tyre on the side of the road when Richard Helbush pulled over to help them. Thinking they were about to be arrested, Cox shot Helbush dead as well.

The couple fled in the police car and were later arrested after a police pursuit and a gunfight. Cox hanged himself in his cell prior to the trial, while Östberg was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murders.

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

US motel coma man wakes speaking Swedish

A man found unconscious in a Californian motel room is baffling US authorities after waking up in hospital with no memory of his previous life and only answering to questions in Swedish.

US motel coma man wakes speaking Swedish

Social workers have been trying for months to piece together the life story of the man, found in February, with only a few belongings in his possession and identification naming his as Michael Thomas Boatwright.

USA Today reported on Saturday that when the man awoke last week from his unconscious state in hospital in Palm Springs, nurses had difficulty in understanding anything the man said. Understandably so, since he could only converse in Swedish, insisting that his name was Johan Ek and remembering nothing about his previous life.

“The guy Michael — it wasn’t me. I’m still Johan,” he told social workers through a translator. “When I look at my photos, I see my ex-wife and my son, my mother and grandmother. But I don’t recognize them. I don’t know them,” he added.

Doctors have made a diagnosis of transient global amnesia – a condition related to memory loss that is usually triggered by emotional or physical trauma.

According to his driving license, the man was born in Florida yet investigations have led further afield to time he spent living in China and Japan. Social workers made contact with a local Swedish-American organization, whose members are providing a translation service for the man. Member Viola Wyler has spoken at length in Swedish with Boatwright in an attempt to trigger his memory.

“All of the events that he talked about, he has never been involved in it; he always feels that he was looking in,” Wyler said, adding that she believed the man could have been in Sweden in the mid-1980s. Since she cannot pinpoint a regional accent, she believes he either learned the language later in life or has not used it for a number of decades.

With no no insurance, no income and only $180 in his pocket, the Swedish-speaking man with no memory is proving a headache for hospital staff. Boatwright, meanwhile, has insisted he was not faking his condition.

“Walk in my shoes for one day,” he said. “You’ll experience the nightmare of a lifetime.”

The Local/cd

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