Alleged baby killer's trial opens

Police, family members offer conflicting testimonies on baby's death.

Valis 248.88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
Valis 248.88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
The high-profile manslaughter trial of a 19-year-old man suspected of beating his three-month-old son to death opened Monday in the Jerusalem District Court, with conflicting testimony by police and supportive family members. Yisrael Valis is charged with repeatedly biting, beating, pinching and punching the infant since he was born because he "did not accept him" due to a congenital defect in the child's neck muscles. The trial began with the testimony of a police officer who recounted his meeting with Valis at Jerusalem's Hadassah-University Hospital at Ein Kerem, where his critically injured son was being treated following the alleged abuse. "I arrived and saw a father with a baby in critical condition, and he seemed indifferent to me. This aroused my suspicion," police officer Yuval Kaminitz testified. Valis's attorney, Avigdor Feldman, dismissed the testimony. "What kind of psychological training do you have to determine that he seemed indifferent?" he asked. The suspect's father, Benzion Valis, testified that he never noticed any signs of abuse when his grandson would visit his Jerusalem home with his father. Feldman showed the court a picture of a smiling baby dressed up as a watermelon. Valis, who was arrested in April after he admitted during police questioning to repeatedly beating his child, withdrew his confession in a court hearing last month, asserting that he had been coerced by police. The young father's arrest led to days of haredi rioting in Jerusalem, after extremist leaders in the vehemently anti-Zionist Eda Haredit community - to which the prominent Valis family belongs - accused police of concocting a "blood libel" identical to European blood libels against the Jews. The baby died in a Jerusalem hospital on April 10, a week after his father allegedly hurled him against q wall when he started to cry. The court subsequently placed Valis under house arrest after probation officers determined that he did not pose a danger to the public.