The Supreme Court of Justice at several points on Monday expressed serious doubts about the “huge mess” made of the crime scene evidence and the lower court’s handling of the case against Roman Zadorov for the 2006 murder of eighth-grader Tair Rada.
The court had previously signaled to the lower court that it should seriously grapple again with the old and new evidence, instructing the lower court to review and decide the case again after having convicted Zadorov once before.
In March 2013, the Supreme Court ordered the lower court to reexamine certain evidence, including a forensic expert’s opinion (a former top FBI official) about bloody shoe prints found at the scene and another expert’s analysis of the murder weapon and the injuries to Rada’s head.
The new evidence had indicated that the bloody shoe prints, which the lower court had connected with Zadorov, were not shoe prints.
Also, the new evidence had indicated that the murder weapon was a serrated knife, or a knife with multiple cutting edges, and not the single cutting edge knife that the lower court had connected with Zadorov.
Despite the Supreme Court’s directive to reexamine the evidence, the lower court rejected both of these new arguments, standing by its original findings.
In February, the Nazareth District Court upheld its earlier conviction of Zadorov for murdering Rada and convicted him a second time.
Monday’s hearing was Zadorov’s last chance to appeal following that second conviction.
In December 2006, Rada was found stabbed to death in a bathroom stall at the Nofei Golan school in Katzrin on the Golan Heights.
Zadorov, the school custodian, was arrested less than a week later and was found guilty of 13-year-old Rada’s murder in September 2010.
He was sentenced by the Nazareth court to life imprisonment plus two years for obstruction of justice.
In its second conviction of Zadorov, the lower court said it preferred the opinion offered by the prosecution’s expert at trial, who, unlike the defense’s expert, had examined Rada’s body.
It chastised the defense expert for lower professional standards and for reaching an opposite conclusion in similar circumstances in a different case.
The lower court chided the defense on the shoe prints issue, preferring the prosecution expert’s take, and expressing disapproval of the defense expert’s evasive answers under cross-examination.
Zadorov’s lawyers, including renowned lawyer Avigdor Feldman as well as Elkana List, blasted the lower court and the prosecution for shoddy analysis and for disregarding inconsistencies in the evidence.
His lawyers also slammed the state and the lower court for ignoring that another key high-ranking government expert came out against the state’s forensic conclusions.
The defense also said that the lower court had unjustifiably ignored the possibility that Zadorov made a false confession, a phenomenon that the courts recognize.
Justice Yoram Danziger asked whether the lower court had disposed with the inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case too easily.
When the Supreme Court originally sent the case back to the lower court, it had already said Zadorov’s first conviction was based on confessions he had made to interrogators, a police translator, a jailhouse informant and during a reenactment of the crime, which justices said “were found to contain lies, manipulations and fabrications.”
The lower court had said that Zadorov had several spontaneous confessions, including about having failed to cover up his crime by failing to clean up blood that he left in the bathroom, which suggested his confessions were authentic.
Since Zadorov has already started serving his sentence, he will continue to do so, and will be released only if the Supreme Court acquits him on appeal.
It is unknown when the court may rule.
Rada’s parents, Ilana and Shmuel, became famous in Israel after the murder, with Ilana being outspoken in her doubts about Zadorov’s guilt, while Shmuel said he believed police had caught the right man.
At Zadorov’s second conviction, Ilana said she was still convinced that the state had incorrectly pinned the blame on Zadorov and was ignoring the search for the real killer.
The case captivated the Israeli media and public – a tragic small-town murder that from the beginning was dogged by rumors, including that local teenagers had killed Rada and the town or teachers had covered this up, finding an easy fall guy in Zadorov, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union.Ben Hartman contributed to this story.