Supreme Court overturns Isawiya resident’s shooting conviction

Investigators failed to look for confirming evidence of statements, leaving the veracity of the convicted's confession open to doubt.

March 26, 2015 02:46
2 minute read.
Isawiya neighborhood, Jerusalem

Police gather in the capital’s Isawiya neighborhood to prevent riots in the flash-point area.. (photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)

A three-justice panel of the Supreme Court has acquitted a Jerusalem man who had confessed of illegal shooting and weapons possession, reversing his conviction by the Jerusalem District Court.

The verdict was handed down on Sunday, but was only reported on Wednesday.

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The justices: Neal Hendel, who authored the decision, Salim Joubran and Zvi Zilberthal, decided unanimously that since the defendant, Amjad Adris from the capital’s Isawiya neighborhood, only confessed to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the police, but reversed his confession in court, including pointing out logical inconsistencies with his confession, that there was no basis to let his conviction stand.

Adris’s confession was highly specific, including exact details about whom he bought the illegal weapon from in Nablus, that he paid exactly NIS 3,500 for it and smuggled it through the Kalandiya checkpoint into Jerusalem in a laptop computer bag, that he had fired exactly 45 bullets from the rifle while celebrating at a wedding.

In addition, two alleged co-conspirators of Adris testified that he had told them he bought the illegal weapon.

Moreover, Adris was convicted of being a member of a terrorist organization.

That conviction, including a 34-month prison sentence, remains in place and Adris did not appeal it.

However, Hendel said that under the criminal law, even a specific confession is not decisive for a conviction in and of itself where it is later retracted if there is no other significant supporting evidence.

Next, Handel stated that the supporting statements by Adris’s associates were worthless and did not count as support, since neither had seen him buy the gun and they only knew about the allegations from Adris bragging about it to them – bragging which could have been merely that, and not the truth.

Hendel said that Adris’s story made no sense, that he had not really explained why he purchased the rifle and that it was unreasonable to accept his earlier story that he had fired 45 bullets at a wedding with no one noticing or seeing.

Further, though Adris told authorities where to find the rifle, it was never found, wrote Hendel.

Defense lawyers often claim that law enforcement obtains confessions by abuse or pressure and that many such confessions are false; at the same time, most enforcement agencies in most countries heavily depend on confessions.

Overall, Hendel criticized investigators for failing to speak with the alleged seller of the weapon or to look for confirming evidence of Adris’s other statements, leaving the veracity of the confession open to doubt.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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