Supreme Court upholds conviction in teen’s murder

Supreme Court upholds conviction in teen’s murder

Panel of three judges votes 2-1 to reject appeal by Roman Zadorov, who was found guilty of murdering Tair Rada in 2006

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

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

A panel of three Supreme Court judges on Wednesday upheld the conviction of Roman Zadorov for the murder of a teenage girl in the northern town of Katzrin in 2006.

It was the second time an appeal by Zadorov was turned back since his conviction for the 2006 murder of 13-year-old Tair Rada.

The decision was reached by a 2-1 majority, with the dissenting opinion coming from Justice Yoram Danziger, who said there was sufficient reasonable doubt to exonerate Zadorov. The other two judges in the case were Yitzhak Amit and Zvi Zilbertal.

Despite having confessed to police and reenacted the crime, he later reversed his testimony and claimed he was innocent. A previous appeal was also rejected at the district court level.

Zadorov’s attorneys said they intended to request another Supreme Court deliberation, an option that is open to them because the decision was not unanimous.

“How can you send a man to life in prison when there is a judge who believes there is reason to acquit?” said Avigdor Feldman, one of Zadorov’s attorneys, after the ruling. “We are disappointed with the decision.”

Tair Rada (YouTube screenshot)
Tair Rada (YouTube screenshot)

Rada’s gruesome murder shocked the country in 2006. The eighth-grade student was found dead in a bathroom stall in her school, with slashes to her neck, stab wounds across her body, and severe blows to her head.

Zadorov, who worked as a maintenance man at the school at the time, was arrested and charged with the killing. In 2010, nearly four years after he was first arrested, the Nazareth District Court sentenced him to life in prison for the murder.

Much of the debate over the conviction focused on the type of knife used — the murder weapon was never found — and a bloody footprint found on Rada’s jeans.

In his confession Zadorov said he cut Tada 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 blade. He maintains that his confession was coerced.

In 2013 the Supreme Court instructed that the case be returned to the Nazareth District Court for review in order to hear two experts’ testimonies related to the evidence in the case, as requested by Zadorov’s lawyers.

The first witness was William Bodziak, a world-renowned forensics expert, who testified that marks on the murdered girl’s jeans were not in fact a bloody footprint initially believed to have been left by Zadorov’s boot. Dr. Maya Forman-Reznik, a pathologist, testified the cuts on Rada’s neck and the trauma injuries to her head were likely caused by a serrated blade.

However, despite the expert opinions, the Nazareth District Court upheld the conviction at the time, after which Zadorov appealed to the Supreme Court.

In their Wednesday ruling, Amit and Zilbertal both accepted that the blade used was likely serrated, but concluded that the discrepancy was not enough to overturn the conviction. Amit noted that Zadorov had a large collection of knives in his home and a computer disk full of videos on how to use them.

Olga Zadorov said she had spoken to her husband the night before and he felt sure he would be acquitted.

“I will not rest until this matter ends well,” she vowed, adding that Rada “is turning in her grave because the murderer is walking around freely.”

“I will continue to fight,” she added.

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