Court rules suspect in Anat Pliner murder can stand trial

Conviction likely in case of slain lawyer.

The Tel Aviv District Court ruled on Tuesday that the youth who allegedly stabbed attorney Anat Pliner to death four years ago did not suffer from mental retardation to the point where he could not stand trial, thus paving the way for his likely conviction on charges of murder and attempted robbery in aggravated circumstances.
Pliner was killed at the door of her home in Ramat Hasharon in April 2006 by a knife-wielding assailant who stabbed her after demanding that she hand over all her money. Pliner’s two children were at home when she was killed.
For two years, police had no idea who had killed her, and could find no motive for the murder.
Then, in June 2008, they arrested a 17-and-a-half year old boy who was caught trying to steal a motorcycle. The police took a DNA sample from him and compared it with the samples in their DNA reservoir. They found a match with the DNA found at the scene of the Pliner murder and immediately began to question the suspect on that affair.
It turned out that the youth also lived in Ramat Hasharon, just 300 meters from Pliner’s house. According to the indictment later served against him, just before 9 p.m. on the day of the murder, the suspect took his father’s commando knife and holster and a pair of black gloves and walked toward Pliner’s house. He chose the house at random, knocked on the door and said he was a neighbor. Then he demanded the money.
After being arrested, the suspect initially denied having anything to do with Pliner’s murder. However, after the police described the suffering of the victim’s orphaned children, he suddenly broke down and confessed. He gave the police details of the murder, and later in the day reenacted it at Pliner’s home.
Despite the confession, however, the suspect’s lawyers, Moshe and Shira Meroz, launched a legal campaign arguing that their client could not differentiate right from wrong and was therefore legally insane.
Later, they claimed that he was severely mentally retarded and therefore could not stand trial.
But two professional investigations disputed that claim.
An IQ test conducted by the Abarbanel psychiatric hospital indicated that the suspect had a very low IQ but was not retarded. Another examination, conducted by a Welfare and Social Services Ministry committee, determined that he could stand trial.
On Tuesday, the court rejected the defense counsel’s arguments and ruled that the defendant did not suffer from mental retardation and could stand trial.
The decision, however, is not formally a conviction.
Because the suspect was a minor at the time of the crime, he must undergo an evaluation before he can be convicted.
According to Dana Pugach, head of the Noga Center for Victims of Crime, who provided counsel for the family during the trial, the court will reconvene on February 1, 2011, to receive the results of the evaluation and will then likely convict and sentence the defendant.
Pliner’s father, Ofer Aharoni, told The Jerusalem Post, “There’s no doubt the court’s decision has calmed us to some degree. However, we are still hoping that the court will hand down a severe sentence and that the killer will not be out on the streets again in a few short years. We will continue to be under stress during the coming months until the sentencing.”
Aharoni added that “the youth went out and robbed.
He took a knife and gloves and very simply went out to rob people. If the court does not hand down a very deterrent sentence, others will do the same.”
He described his daughter as a successful lawyer “who loved life. She looked after people.
Often, she did not take money from clients. She is a loss not only to us, but to the entire country. I hope the judges will take this into account in determining the sentence.”