The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a petition for a second appeal by a Ukrainian-Israeli handyman convicted in the high-profile, brutal murder of a teenage girl at a Golan Heights school in 2006.
Roman Zadarov is serving a life sentence for the 2006 grisly murder of 13-year-old Tair Rada, who was found stabbed to death in a bathroom stall in her Katzrin school, with slashes to her neck, stab wounds across her body, and severe blows to her head.
In the ruling, Supreme Court President Miriam Naor said that despite the substantial public interest in the case, there was no “legal justification” to retry Zadorov.
“There must be a distinction between public interest and what the law demands,” Naor wrote in her decision.
Zadorov, who worked as a maintenance man at the school at the time, was arrested and charged with the killing. Two weeks after his arrest, police announced Zadorov had confessed to Rada’s murder and reenacted the attack for investigators. But a day later, Zadorov’s defense attorney announced that his client had recanted his confession, claiming his confession and reenactment were coerced and included incorrect information.
In 2010, nearly four years after he was first arrested, the Nazareth District Court sentenced him to life in prison.
Much of the public debate over Zadorov’s conviction focused on the type of knife used — the murder weapon was never recovered — and a bloody footprint found on Rada’s jeans.
In his confession, Zadorov said he attacked Rada with a box cutter, which has a smooth blade, whereas a forensic expert testified that wounds on the victim’s chin were caused by a serrated knife. He maintains that his confession was coerced.
Last December, a panel of three Supreme Court Judges upheld Zadorov’s conviction in a split 2-1 decision. The dissenting opinion came from Justice Yoram Danziger, who said there was sufficient reasonable doubt to exonerate Zadorov.
After that hearing, Zadorov’s public defender said his client would file an appeal since the decision to uphold his murder conviction was not unanimous.
In January, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Zadorov’s second appeal, despite objections by state prosecutors who argued at the time that the justices’ dissenting opinions was not enough to warrant a retrial.
Meanwhile, public support for Zadorov has grown steadily, with his supporters alleging his conviction was based on circumstantial evidence and claiming police framed him.
In recent months, online petitions and social media groups calling on President Reuven Rivlin to commute Zadorov’s life sentence have garnered thousands of supporters in Israel and abroad.