Israeli Supreme Court acquits man convicted of murder

Elisha Chayavtov confessed to a murder after being completely cut off from the world. He has now been released, after seven years of imprisonment. The judges: “Fundamental flaws in investigation."

Israeli Supreme Court (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israeli Supreme Court
The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, acquitted 48-year-old Elisha Chayavtov Thursday morning of a murder that took place 16 years ago and which he had confessed to committing.
Judge Ori Shoham, in his final verdict, read out the court’s ruling accepting Chayavtov’s appeal and calling for his immediate release from prison.
In 2002, during a robbery gone awry, two veiled attackers murdered Shai Edri, a cashier in a Sderot snooker club. Despite their best efforts, police were unable to identify the murderers.
When intelligence information suggested that Chayavtov was one of the murderers, he was transferred from Dekel Prison – where he had been serving a sentence for burning down his house – and detained in a cell with an undercover investigator for five weeks.
The trial revealed that Chayavtov was held for 11 days utterly cut off from the outside world. He had no access to telephone communication and no lawyer; no contact with family members, who had yet to discover of his arrest; no appearances in court; and no contact with other detainees, save for his interrogator. During his time in the cell, the undercover investigator used heroin and instructed Chayavtov in drug abuse, all the while exercising severe emotional manipulation.
After two weeks of being held in this manner, Chayavtov was officially interrogated for the first time about the murder, and was only brought to a judge for a remand hearing on the following day.
Following three weeks of almost total solitude – having had no access to a lawyer while the undercover investigator increased his influence over Chayavtov – he finally associated himself with the robbery and the murder in a laconic, partial confession to the undercover interrogator. In April of 2011, the Beersheba District Court convicted Chayavtov of murder.
Save for this brief, partial confession, Chayavtov denied and has been continuously denying any connection to the case ever since. His denial remained consistent throughout the days and weeks he spent in the cell with the interrogator, despite dozens of manipulations. Chayavtov adhered to his denial during the interrogation and confrontation with the undercover investigator, as well as during the original trial and his appeal to the Supreme Court.
The appeal, submitted by public defense lawyers Dr. Larnau and Vernitziky, claimed that Chayavtov was subject to extreme emotional and psychological manipulations and was stripped of all his rights, all of which led to his false confession.
Thursday morning, the Supreme Court decided to acquit Chayavtov and instructed that he be released, effective immediately. The murder case has been reopened, and the judges determined that the identity of the murderer, who is still at large, is unknown.
Chayavtov’s lawyers are calling for the state prosecution to conduct a criminal investigation against the head of the investigation team and the undercover investigator in this case.
State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan responded, “We will conduct a thorough examination of the faults of the investigating team that have arisen from this court verdict.”