In a landmark ruling, the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court on Sunday acquitted of murder on grounds of insanity a Tiberias man who beheaded his ex-wife and paraded the severed head around the neighborhood after setting her body on fire.
Upholding a plea bargain, a panel of three judges ruled that Meir Goldstein was not responsible for his actions and would be committed to a mental institution for 25 years.
The ruling marked the first time that a defendant in Israel has been acquitted of murder on grounds of insanity, and was based on a Supreme Court ruling from a property damages case in which the defendant was also ruled insane and therefore not culpable.
In previous cases where defense lawyers pleaded insanity the courts canceled the indictments.
Doctors who examined Goldstein concluded that he “could not tell right from wrong” at the time he killed his ex-wife, Adele Kalman.
Due to the acquittal, if in the future psychologists assess that Goldstein is no longer a threat to the public he could, in theory, walk free, the Hebrew-language Haaretz daily reported.
According to the indictment, Goldstein had asked to stop by Kalman’s apartment on March 29 to pick up some of his belongings. When Kalman went to the bathroom at the end of the visit, her ex-husband slammed the front door, pretending to have left. But once she exited the bathroom, he proceeded to stab her repeatedly as she screamed for mercy.
The assailant then beheaded his victim, set the rest of her body on fire and left the apartment.
Goldstein was arrested after neighbors informed police that they saw a man wandering around the neighborhood in bloodstained clothes clutching a woman’s severed head under his arm.
Friends of the victim related that Kalman had spoken of her relief over being divorced, but had also expressed fears that her ex-husband would harm her.
Following the arrest, Goldstein told investigators that after killing his former wife, he was now the messiah.
“God called to me and said to me, ‘This is the seed of Amalek and the Prophet Hezekiah did not cut off Amalek’s head and therefore did not earn the right to be the king messiah. Because I have chopped off the head of the seed of Amalek, I am acknowledged as the king messiah,” he said.
In biblical Jewish tradition, the nomadic Amalekite tribe came to be viewed as the essence of evil, and Jews were enjoined to eradicate it.
Shortly after Goldstein’s arrest, his attorney Ephraim Dimri said his client was refusing to explain his motives for the murder, but that in eight days — “the eight days of Hannukah,” according to Goldstein — a miracle will occur that will allow him to explain why he murdered his wife.
While the assailant underwent an initial psychiatric examination following his arrest, Dimri requested that he undergo further examination.
Goldstein immigrated to Israel in 1991 from Moldova and was once hospitalized in a psychiatric facility.