(photo credit: INIMAGE)
The victim of a serial rapist can preemptively defend himself or herself, defense lawyer Alon Eisenberg told the Supreme Court on Monday, arguing Yonatan Hilo’s appeal of his conviction and sentence for killing a man who had repeatedly raped him.
Hilo killed Yaron Ayalon in 2010 after Ayalon had repeatedly raped him and had brought Hilo to a dark alleyway where Hilo worried Ayalon was going to rape him again.
Despite Hilo claiming he killed Ayalon in self-defense, the Lod District Court sentenced Hilo to 20 years in prison in December 2013 for killing Ayalon.
The Lod court recognized that Hilo was a rape victim and that his killing of Ayalon was not a standard case, deciding to sentence him to 20 years in prison instead of a life sentence.
But Hilo and hundreds of supporters converged on the Supreme Court to try to convince Justices Hanan Meltzer, Uri Shoham, and Dapha Barak-Erez to overturn the conviction or at least significantly reduce his sentence.
“If a woman is raped once, then twice,” Eisenberg said, and then the rapist “takes her to a dark corner, she does not need to wait until he rapes her” again to preemptively defend herself.
But the justices pressed Eisenberg hard on the issue, saying that Hilo could have reported Ayalon to the police, instead of being raped again or killing him.
The justices, like the lower court, also noted that in the moments when Hilo killed Ayalon, he had his back turned to Hilo and was urinating.
Eisenberg explained that Hilo was already traumatized and that, in addition to his fragile emotional state and cultural fears of the authorities as an Ethiopian, the fact that he and Ayalon lived near each other made him worried that Ayalon would know he went to the police and take revenge. Therefore, Eisenberg argued, it was unrealistic to expect him to go to the police.
The defense lawyer said that courts have recognized that sometimes battered women reach an emotional state where they cannot go to the police and that this should be applied to Hilo, though men are not usually viewed this way.
The justices, the prosecution, and Eisenberg debated some related cases of victims who killed their assailant in which the punishment was only seven to 10 years, with the state saying that those cases entailed being victimized many more times over a longer period.
Hilo’s case has provoked substantial public sympathy, as many find it difficult to accept how a seemingly harmless and quiet man who was repeatedly raped could be sent to prison for so long when he acted out of fear in self-defense and was in a crazed mental state when he killed Ayalon.
Hilo strangled Ayalon, beat his body with a rock, dragged his body to the garbage and then beat his body further with a rock – part of which reduced some of the judicial sympathy for him.
But his supporters have said that at that point he was in a psychotic state of rage. They point out that he turned himself in to police the next day and that Ayalon had made comments while he was urinating suggesting he was about to rape the usually meek and weaker Hilo again.