Crime scene [illustrative].
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
In a precedent-setting decision, the Supreme Court on Tuesday converted a 20-year jail sentence for murder into a 12-year sentence for manslaughter for a man who smashed the skull of his rapist.
Yonatan Hillo was previously convicted of murdering Yaron Ayalin in 2010 and was given a 20-year sentence by the Lod District Court in 2013, despite the court’s acknowledging that Hillo was raped by Ayalin, who also had a record of sexual violence.
The Supreme Court’s three-justice- panel – Hanan Melcer, Daphna Barak-Erez and Uri Shoham – reduced the typical murder sentence from life in prison to 20 years in prison.
The decision set off anger and debate over the harsh treatment that Hillo, an Ethiopian Jew, was getting, considered the extreme provocation he had experienced.
Hillo’s lawyer claimed self-defense and pushed for a full acquittal, saying that when Hillo killed Ayalin, he believed his victim was taking him to an isolated spot in order to rape him for the third time.
While not fully exonerating him, the Supreme Court in large part agreed that Hillo faced extenuating circumstances.
The justices, however, did not accept the argument that Hillo was acting in self-defense.
The court said he had alternatives to avoid being raped besides murder.
Noting the brutality with which Hillo treated Ayalin’s body after he was clearly dead, the court said that it did not want to endorse revenge as a justification for murder by giving a full acquittal.
On the other hand, despite Hillo strangling Ayalin to death and his treatment of the body, the Supreme Court found that the case fit the extreme circumstance where provocation could reduce a murder charge.
In decades past, provocation was often regarded as being able to reduce murder to manslaughter, the classic case being for a man who killed another man after finding him in the act of having an affair with his wife.
But in recent decades, provocation has been nearly eliminated, making the Supreme Court’s decision all the more significant.