Austin family gets second chance at justice; retrial begins in Greece for beating death of Bakari Henderson


PATRAS, GREECE (KXAN) — An Austin family is in Greece Wednesday morning hearing testimonies they heard in 2018 all over again. This time, they’re hoping for tougher convictions and longer jail sentences.

Jill and Phil Henderson’s son, Bakari Henderson, was beaten to death in the summer of 2017 on the Greek Island of Zakynthos.

In November 2018, the trial of nine suspects charged in the case resulted in six convictions.

The suspects were charged with deliberate homicide, which carries a life sentence, but the Greek court reduced the charges to deliberate bodily harm.

In the United States, you cannot be tried for the same offense twice. The 5th amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits double jeopardy.

In Greece, however, a prosecutor can file an appeal. In this case, the suspects will be retried for the original charge – deliberate homicide.

Dimitrios Ioannidis, an attorney in Boston who’s not directly involved in the Henderson case, but has been following it, told KXAN “…such a course of action is only taken by prosecutors in Greece in exceptional circumstances.”

Family seeks justice for their son

Jill Henderson said about the trial outcome, “We were just blindsided. We had no idea this would happen. It was shocking to the attorneys. It was shocking to the prosecutor.”

In November 2018, the Greek court handed down sentences ranging from five to 15 years on reduced charges of deliberate bodily harm.

“We did feel disbelief because it’s basically like they chased him down and beat him to death like a dog, and then you just basically get to walk away. That’s what it felt like,” Jill explained.

A surveillance camera showed the suspects chasing after Bakari in July 2017. Investigators said he died from several severe blows to his head.

At the first trial, Jill said the suspects denied any involvement.

“They say that’s not me, that’s not me in the video, I didn’t kick him, I didn’t hit him, and it’s like really, but if you look at the video it’s clearly you,” she said.

Ioannidis told KXAN in the new trial, there will be “a re-evaluation of all the evidence introduced at trial and any other new evidence that the parties may want to introduce. This is a positive development as the appellate court will not only re-evaluate all the evidence again, but can return a guilty verdict for premeditated murder.”

Jill said “I don’t know that I could ever say they will ever fully pay for what they did because taking a life is something that you just can’t find justice for. In my heart and in my mind, I always knew that God had the master plan, and so no matter what the outcome, God has justice, and it will prevail.”

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