By Julie Hurisse
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Lawyer at the Paris Bar and writer, Julia Minkowski was passionate about the life of the first lawyer of the bar of Le Mans, Germaine Brierewho was also the one who defended the Papin sisters in 1933. Julia Minkowski will dedicate her book, Beyond expectationat the Doucet bookstore, Friday, September 23, 2022at 18 o’clock.
How did you become interested in the first lawyer of the Bar of Le Mans, Germaine Brière?
I wondered whether female lawyers had ever accompanied their client to the scaffold. Only two women did it, that’s how I discovered Germaine Brière. In 1928, the last public execution took place at Le Mans, that of Henri Nicolas. Germaine Brière was his lawyer.
Then it becomes that of the Papin sisters…
Yes, it’s a fascinating affair for those who love news items. I found the choice of lawyer interesting in relation to madness and criminal liability. I found the wait for this verdict interesting.
Can you come back to his journey?
She has a rather exceptional destiny. Few women had the baccalaureate at the time, she had it. She studied law in Paris. She wanted to register at the bar of Le Mans, for which she had all the diplomas. An investigation was carried out by the Le Mans police, in agreement with the prosecutor. It was concluded that she had too promiscuous morals. She filed a lawsuit, decided by the Court of Appeal of Angers. She brought all the evidence to show that it was all wrong. She even had to bring a certificate of virginity. From there, she became the first woman lawyer of the bar of Le Mans and was involved in all the correctional cases of the jurisdiction, up to defending the Papin sisters.
How did she become?
We do not know. She was assigned to Henri Nicolas. Not for the Papin sisters. They had a small nest egg and could afford a lawyer.
Why did this case have such a stir?
There is savagery and this class thing. Servants were able to suppress their bosses. Politics has seized on this crime as a symbol, that of exploitation. But obviously, Christine Papin was schizophrenic.
How do you view the defense put in place by Germaine Brière for the two sisters?
It is a very modern defense. She did not give in to the sirens and the easy choice which would have been to plead the class crime. The execution was savage. It was more consistent to plead irresponsibility and insanity.
Are there elements of Germaine Brière’s life that echo yours?
The fact that she is a female lawyer, but also her relationship with her mother. She was close to it, that’s my case. She is also a woman passionate about her job, like me.
Beyond expectation. Julia Minkowski. Editions JC Lattès. Dedication at the Doucet bookstore in Le Mans, Friday September 23 at 6 p.m.
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