Expanded court to hear case against Kinzi rule [p. 7]

State wants to overturn 30-year precedent that bars those on trial from testifying, in separate trials, against their alleged accomplices.

A panel of seven High Court justices is due on Sunday to hear an unusual petition filed by the state to abolish a principle of law introduced by the courts 30 years ago to protect criminal suspects from false testimony against them. The state filed the petition against a panel of three Bersheba District Court judges after they rejected its request to allow an alleged killer to testify at the separate trials of other defendants suspected of participating in some of the same crimes he committed. On Thursday, the Public Defender's Office announced that it opposed the state's request. A day earlier, the Bar Association asked the court to join the petition on the side of the respondents and against the state. The rule preventing a defendant from testifying at the trials of other defendants accused of the same crimes is called the "Kinzi rule." The rationale behind the ruling was that if a suspect testified at the trial of a partner in the same crime while he himself was still on trial, he would try to shift as much of the blame for the crime as possible on to his colleague to improve his own chances at his trial. The state's petition centers upon Yaron Sanker, who is standing trial in Tel Aviv District Court on six separate charges, including counts of murder and attempted murder. Meanwhile, two separate trials involving several other suspects linked to the same crimes are under way in Bersheba and Tel Aviv District courts. Sanker was caught by the police and, during his interrogation, provided details of all the crimes he and the other defendants had committed. Until then, police had failed to make any headway in cracking the cases. Thus, Sanker's testimony is crucial to the state's case in the trials of the other suspects. But while the other two trials have progressed and the state is anxious to have Sanker testify immediately in each of them, his own trial is moving along slowly. And because of the Kinzi rule, the other trials will remain suspended until Sanker's trial ends. This means that the suspects will be remanded in detention for unjust amounts of time, or they will be released from jail even though they pose a public danger. Despite the problems raised by the state in its petition, the Public Defender's Office opposes abolishing the rule. Attorneys Ami Kobo and Tal Aner wrote in their response to the court that the delays in judicial proceedings were not caused by the Kinzi rule but by "the heavy caseload of the courts and the severe shortage of judges.