Ex-Supreme Court judge says retrial possible in teen murder case
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Ex-Supreme Court judge says retrial possible in teen murder case

Yoram Danziger, the lone dissenter in appeal of Tair Rada’s convicted killer, questions whether majority opinion should be enough to hand down life sentence

Yoram Danziger at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on January 12, 2012. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Yoram Danziger at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on January 12, 2012. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

A former Supreme Court justice indicated Friday there was a possibility of a retrial for an Israeli man serving a life sentence for the murder of a teenage girl over a decade ago.

The comments from Yoram Danziger came a day after it was revealed that a hair found on Tair Rada’s body was not that of Roman Zadorov, who was convicted over the 2006 killing.

“We have a good, responsible and serious legal system and if it comes to a retrial, I’m sure that a considerable number of the testimonies floating around will be made clear,” Danzinger said during an event at Tel Aviv University.

Danzinger was the lone Supreme Court justice to dissent on a 2-1 decision in 2015 upholding Zadorov’s conviction. The judge said at the time there was sufficient reasonable doubt to exonerate Zadorov.

Although he would not directly address the case, saying it was “inappropriate” to do so as a retired Supreme Court justice, Danzinger questioned Friday whether a majority alone is sufficient to impose a life sentence and not unanimous consent.

“In our criminal law it is possible with a majority opinion to send a man to life imprisonment. Is this a desirable outcome? I’m not sure. Does a minority opinion not raise a sense of reasonable doubt about the guilt of the accused,” he said.

“Do we want to adopt the method opined by the Rambam that it is preferable to release 99 criminals from jail and then to put one innocent man there?” Danzinger asked, referring to the medieval Jewish scholar and philosopher Maimonides.

Tair Rada (YouTube screenshot)

Rada’s murder case has long gripped the Israeli public, due both to the brutal way in which she was killed and continuing accusations that it was not Zadorov who committed the murder but a woman whose name is gagged by a court order and who suffers from mental illness.

Following a DNA analysis by investigators, the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute announced Thursday that the hair matched that of the former boyfriend of the woman, reigniting speculation on who committed the killing and whether Zadorov could be given a retrial.

The ex-boyfriend, whose name is also under gag order, has been referred to in Hebrew media reports by the initials A.H., while the woman has been named as O.K.

“This is decisive evidence in the sense that it must lead to a retrial and the acquittal of Zadorov,” his lawyer, Yoram Halevi, said in a press conference broadcast live on Israel’s prime-time TV news programs.

Prosecutors, however, were quoted by Hebrew media as downplaying the significance of the DNA findings and saying they did not conclusively prove the hair belonged to A.H., who claims O.K. confessed to him that she had carried out the murder while wearing his clothes.

The development came just days after the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported that a witness arrived Sunday at a police station in Nazareth Illit to testify that O.K. had confessed to her that she had killed Rada.

O.K. is now claimed to have told three people that she committed the murder.

The report also cited a document written by a psychiatrist who spoke with O.K. in 2014, in which she said she had a strong drive to kill someone. She said she was containing that urge, but only barely, and that she had purchased a knife and gloves with the intention of killing her neighbor.

The psychiatrist had immediately sent her for involuntary commitment in a psychiatric hospital for evaluation.

Convicted murderer Roman Zadorov in the courtroom of the Supreme Court, Jerusalem, December 23, 2015. (Gili Yohanan/POOL)

Shortly after the murder, Zadorov, who worked as a maintenance man at the teen’s 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, claiming his confession and reenactment were coerced and included incorrect information.

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.

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