Swede acquitted of murder after 13 years in jail – thanks, in part, to a podcast

Kaj Linna, who was convicted in northern Sweden over murder charges he always denied, has been fully acquitted in a retrial. After 13 years behind bars, he is now a free man.

Swede acquitted of murder after 13 years in jail – thanks, in part, to a podcast
Kaj Linna. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Kaj Linna was sentenced to life in jail over a brutal combined robbery and murder in Kalamark in the far north of Sweden in 2004, despite a lack of forensic evidence or an eye witness linking him to the scene.

He always denied having committed the murder and at the end of last year, after new evidence was presented in a Swedish crime podcast based on global phenomenon 'Serial', he was granted a retrial.

On Thursday the court formally cleared Linna of all charges, confirming what it had indicated at the end of the trial last month when it released him pending the verdict.

The judge of the court of appeals for Övre Norrland, Margareta Bergström, said in a statement: “Our conclusion is that the evidence presented in the trial is insufficient and therefore cannot lead to conviction.”

Linna's case dates back to April 2004, when two brothers were attacked on a farm some 20 kilometres from Piteå. One of the brothers was killed; the other was assaulted but survived. The latter, who was disabled because of a stroke, was found by social services two days later and said he had recognized the voice of a man who had previously done business with the brothers and who they perceived as threatening.

The man, who had an alibi, instead mentioned Linna as a potential suspect and pointed police in the direction of another man who had more information. That man became the main witness at the trial and said Linna had told him of plans to rob the brothers.

Linna's fight for a retrial has been a long-running feature in Swedish media, with newspaper DN's reporter Stefan Lisinski one of those who had pointed out several errors and gaps in the main witness' story. The Supreme Court ordered the appeals court to retry the case last year after the same witness, speaking to Swedish crime podcast Spår, changed the details of the account he gave to the police. The witness had also offered new information in a documentary about the case by Swedish filmmaker Mårten Barkvall.

“My time in jail was completely wasted, worthless,” commented Linna on Thursday. He has previously said he intends to seek damages from the Swedish state, but added money could not repay him for the time lost.

Nonetheless, he is likely to be awarded significant payouts, legal experts agreed. In a similar case, Joy Rahman, a Swedish-Bangladeshi man who spent eight years in jail over a woman's murder, received 10.2 million kronor in damages after it was found in 2002 that he had been wrongfully convicted.

“I would be surprised if Kaj Linna's compensation does not break the record,” law professor Mårten Schultz of Stockholm University told Swedish news agency TT.

Created by Swedish podcast platform Acast and hosted by Anton Berg and Martin Johnson, Spår was launched in 2015 to take a closer look at the case in its first five-episode season, inspired by the hugely popular US investigative podcast Serial.

“Spår hosts Anton and Martin should be amazingly proud that their series has helped bring about justice for Kaj Linna and that he can now walk free, though the tragedy of the last 13 years can never be undone,” Karl Rosander, Spår executive producer and co-founder of Acast, told The Local on Thursday.

“This result is a landmark moment for podcasts as a cultural phenomenon. It shows that not only can podcasts inform and entertain, but they can also form investigations that shape real-life events.”


Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

A man was shot to death in Kristianstad, Skåne, late on Thursday night. He is the 48th person to be shot dead in Sweden this year, meaning that the previous record for most fatal shootings in one year set in 2020 has now been broken.

Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

“Unfortunately we can’t say more than that he’s in his twenties and we have no current suspects,” duty officer Mikael Lind told TT newswire.

According to police statistics, this most recent deadly shooting means that 48 people have been shot to death in 2022, meaning that Sweden has broken a new record for deadly shootings per year.

Earlier this week, Sweden’s police chief Anders Thornberg said that this number is likely to rise even higher before the end of the year.

“It looks like we’re going to break the record this year,” he told TT on Tuesday. “That means – if it continues at the same pace – around 60 deadly shootings.”

“If it ends up being such a large increase that would be very unusual,” said Manne Gerell, criminiologist at Malmö University.

“We saw a large increase between 2017 and 2018, and we could see the same now, as we’re on such low figures in Sweden. But it’s still worrying that it’s increasing by so much over such a short time period,” he said.

There also seems to be an upwards trend in the number of shootings overall during 2022. 273 shootings had occured by September 1st this year, compared with 344 for the whole of 2021 and 379 for the whole of 2020.

If shootings continue at this rate for the rest of 2022, it is likely that the total number for the year would be higher than 2021 and 2020. There are, however, fewer injuries.

“The majority of shootings cause no injuries, but this year, mortality has increased substantially,” Gerell explained. “There aren’t more people being shot, but when someone is shot, they’re more likely to die.”

Thursday’s shooting took place in Kristianstad, but it’s only partially true that deadly gun violence is becoming more common in smaller cities.

“It’s moved out somewhat to smaller cities, but we’re overexaggerating that effect,” Gerell said. “We’re forgetting that there have been shootings in other small cities in previous years.”

A report from the Crime Prevention Council (Brå) presented last spring showed that Sweden, when compared with 22 different countries in Europe, was the only one with an upwards trend for deadly shootings.

Temporary increases can be seen during some years in a few countries, but there were no countries which showed such a clear increase as Sweden has seen for multiple years in a row, according to Brå.

The Swedish upwards trend for deadly gun violence began in the beginning of the 2000s, but the trend took off in 2013 and has continued to increase since.

Eight of ten deadly shootings take place in criminal environments, the study showed. The Swedish increase has taken place in principle only among the 20-29 year old age group.

When police chief Anders Thornberg was asked how the trend can be broken, he said that new recruitments are one of the most important factors.

“The most important thing is to break recruitment, make sure we can listen encrypted and that we can get to the profits of crime in a better way,” he said.