Man acquitted for third time of murdering his former wife

Despite Alexei Volkov’s confession, Supreme Court rejects state’s second appeal and finds him innocent on grounds of reasonable doubt

For the third time, a court has found Alexei Volkov not guilty of killing his ex-wife, Julia, on grounds of reasonable doubt.
This time it was the Supreme Court which, in a two-to-one decision, upheld a ruling by Tel Aviv District Court, which had also acquitted Volkov of the charges by a majority decision.
The district court had already cleared Volkov once before, but was ordered by the Supreme Court to judge the case a second time, after the presiding judge in the original panel miscalculated the time range of the murder as estimated by the coroner who examined Julia’s corpse.
On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s second ruling. Justices Asher Grunis and Neal Hendel, voted to acquit Volkov, while Justice Edna Arbel voted to convict.
During his interrogation by police, Volkov had confessed that he killed his ex-wife. However, Grunis and Hendel found too many flaws in the confession and chose not to give it weight.
Julia Volkov’s boyfriend, Yoel Kazaz, and her mother and sister discovered her choked to death in her home on January 16, 2006. Kazaz told police he suspected Volkov had done it.
Volkov was picked up and interrogated for two weeks. At first he denied that he had killed his former wife and said he had never even been in her house. A week later, he admitted that he had been in Julia’s house on the day of the murder.
The following week, he confessed to the murder and reenacted it.
However, the judges in the first trial concluded that there were too many discrepancies in Volkov’s account, discarded the confession and found him innocent on grounds of reasonable doubt. The presiding judge, Shlomo Timen, blasted the police for allegedly making many serious mistakes during their investigation.
The state appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, which ordered the lower court to retry the case because of the mistake made by Timen regarding the time of Julia’s death. In the meantime, Timen retired and the case was heard by the two judges who had heard the first case and Judge Zvi Gurfinkel.
Gurfkinel voted to convict Volkov, but the other two judges, who had voted to acquit the defendant in the first trial, did not change their minds.
The state then appealed against the second acquittal.
Grunis found that although there were no indications that Volkov had given his confession under police pressure, there were too many contradictions between his version of events and what actually happened to give weight to the confession.
For example, Volkov said he had stabbed Julia to death, when Julia had actually been choked to death. In cases where there was similarity between Volkov’s account and the real events, there were logical explanations to explain why he said what he said.
Arbel came to the opposite conclusion. She found that Volkov’s confession was credible and that the corroboration of his account by the evidence proved that the confession was genuine.
Hendel, who held the deciding vote, sided with Grunis.
Although no other judge attacked the police as Timen did, Grunis stressed that they had failed to check key evidence found at the scene of the crime, including a blue shoelace, which might have been used to choke Julia, and bloodstains (or possible bloodstains) found in her bedroom and in her son’s room, which the killer apparently searched.
Nevertheless, he said these omissions did not reach the level of negligence.