Court lets defendant withdraw confession at sentencing

Haifa court says high value must be placed on avoiding false convictions based on false confessions, said the court.

June 12, 2013 01:35
1 minute read.
High Court of Justice

High Court of Justice 370. (photo credit: yonah jeremy bob)

In an unusual development, the Supreme Court on Tuesday held that a defendant could withdraw his confession to a crime to the prosecution, thereby upending a plea bargain which he agreed to and nullifying a conviction against him, even as late as during his sentencing hearing.

Gans Schneider was previously convicted of causing serious bodily harm to another by the Haifa District Court as a result of a plea bargain, which was largely based on his confession to the crime.

At his hearing to decide how severe his sentence would be for the conviction, Schneider requested to withdraw his confession, break the plea bargain deal, reverse his conviction and have the case sent back to trial.

When the Haifa District Court refused, stating that it was too late in the proceedings and Schneider had not demonstrated sufficiently extreme circumstances to reverse his confession and all that followed, Schneider appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court lectured the prosecution for arguing that Schneider should not be allowed to break his plea bargain agreement on the grounds that such agreements cannot be freely broken and bind the parties, as in civil contracts.

According to the court, plea bargain agreements, which often determine the fate of a person’s liberty and how much time a person may spend in prison, are fundamentally different from civil contracts.

Although courts must be careful about allowing defendants to break plea bargain agreements, with all of the impact and disarray such events cause to the prosecution and the judicial system, the highest value must still be placed on avoiding false convictions based on false confessions, said the court.

The court emphasized that it was not at all indicating that it believed Schneider was or should be found innocent, only that the case had to be tried and could not conclude without a trial, now that Schneider claimed that his confession was false.

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