The Supreme Court on Thursday reversed a Tel Aviv District Court decision and
accepted Channel 2’s appeal to air a program about Shimon Cooper, accused of
murdering two of his three wives.
Tel Aviv District Court Judge Gidon
Ginat had blocked the airing of the program on January 14. Ginat said that the
value of sub judice, a term for preserving legal proceedings from undue outside
interference, superseded the value of freedom of speech in this case.
noted that the case involved murder allegations and that the prejudice to Cooper
could be severe.
Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis, in contrast,
said that in this case the value of freedom of speech was more important. He
said there were sufficient protections against unduly influencing the trial,
since any undue influence could be prosecuted by the state.
The fact that
the state might prosecute the creators of a television program which went over
the line would deter the program’s producers from airing anything that might be
problematic, said Grunis.
Grunis also said that other media had aired
similar programs without asking Cooper’s permission and without being sued by
Cooper, and that only Channel 2, who asked Cooper’s permission before airing its
program, had been held back.
He added that this was unfair persecution of
the one media outlet that had been extra responsible and noted that the program
in question gave a response to Cooper’s lawyer, fulfilling any concerns about
Next, Grunis noted that many cases involving freedom of speech
and airing programs were fought after the program had aired and its negative
impact could be quantified.
In contrast, preventing a program from airing
at all is a much more extreme act to take and should only rarely be done, said
Formally, the court’s rejection of the lower court’s decision,
which had granted Cooper’s request to block the program, was based on the
suspect’s failure to pay certain standard court fees and his failure to submit
sworn affidavits in support of his request.
While the lower court had
noted this issue and penalized Cooper on a procedural level only, Grunis said
that such issues were substantive – if there were no testimony and no sworn
affidavits, then there was no objective basis for a court to grant a
The court panel also included Noam Sohlberg and Esther Hayot.
Whereas Hayot agreed more fully with Grunis, Sohlberg supported the ultimate
decision of letting the program air on the basis of Cooper’s failure to submit
sworn affidavits, but disagreed strongly with Grunis on the balancing of
Sohlberg said that if anything, the trend among most nations
with similar legal principles, such as England, has been to adapt the principle
of sub judice to modern times, not to abandon it.
He noted that the
United States has been heavily criticized by many legal commentators for
embracing freedom of speech more heavily over the sub judice principle, and that
the US position on the issue is viewed as an aberration.
In that light,
Sohlberg said that freedom of speech should be curbed where it threatened
someone like Cooper whose fate was in the balance in the trial.
of the case itself, the Central District Attorney’s Office filed a request to
amend its indictment against the alleged serial con man on March 19 to add a
charge of murdering his first wife to go along with the murder charges regarding
his third wife.
The amended indictment, including – for the first time –
definitive charges against Cooper for the murder of Orit Cooperschmidt, was
filed in the Lod District Court.
A web of lies, scams and a fictional
story about a Mossad hit overseas are at the center of the case, initially filed
The new charges arose from additional investigative
activities that shed new light on Cooper’s alleged method of operation in
general, and regarding his first wife in particular.
According to the new
charges, Cooper murdered Orit (the prosecution is still unclear how) and then
set up a scene to make it look like she had committed suicide by
Cooper then allegedly called family members and police,
covering his tracks by being the person who notified everyone.
original indictment, the Central District Attorney’s Office alleged that the
51-yearold Cooper was a serial con man who seduced and married his third wife
Jenny Cooper and then murdered her on the night of August 20-21,
Originally, police had closed the Cooper case until Channel 2 aired
a program about the alleged murders on March 25, 2010 which caused a public
uproar and led to a reopening of the investigation and the eventual
The program being debated before the courts was supposed to
be a follow-up program on the issue.
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