Court delays ruling in Israeli ‘double jeopardy’ case

Legal oddity remains unresolved after ruling not issued on whether to continue reviewing appeal of conviction in stabbing death of police officer in 2008.

Police officer Shlomi Assouline 311 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Police officer Shlomi Assouline 311
(photo credit: Channel 10)
An Israeli legal oddity remains unresolved, after the Supreme Court decided on Sunday not to issue a ruling on whether to continue reviewing the appeal of a conviction in the stabbing death of a police officer in 2008.
The case is highly peculiar in that the defendant, Rateb Abu Atza, is appealing his conviction for causing grave bodily harm to police officer Shlomi Assouline, while he simultaneously faces murder proceedings for the same crime.
In 2008, Atza was convicted of causing Assouline grievous bodily harm and sentenced to 20 years in prison, but the prosecution moved to press murder charges following the police officer’s death from his wounds in August. In late November, the Central District Attorney’s Office filed a murder indictment against Atza, almost five years after he stabbed Assouline in Rehovot.
The indictment presents a sort of “double jeopardy,” in that Atza will be charged a second time for the same crime, as a result of Assouline’s subsequent death.
A court spokeswoman said Sunday that she could not recall any case of this sort in the history of the state.
In a statement made in November, the State Attorney’s Office said that according to the law, a person cannot be tried and convicted for the same offense twice. The only exception is when a victim is killed as a result of a criminal act after a defendant has already been indicted for a lesser offense.
In the new indictment, the prosecution charges that Atza intentionally killed Assouline in order to ensure that he and his accomplice could evade arrest for car theft.
Atza was supposed to be under full house arrest for another suspected crime but traveled to Rishon Lezion to steal the car according to the indictment. According to the indictment, while Assouline gave chase, Atza stabbed him in the neck with a sharp object penetrating his vertebrae and causing grave bodily harm to his spinal cord and brain. He then smashed Assouline’s head against a parked car.
Assouline was hospitalized in a coma for four-and-a-half years before he died on August 3 in Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer.
He was 31 years old.
The new indictment was filed in the Central District Court in Petah Tikva by attorney Orly Ben-Ari of the Central District Attorney’s Office.
Ben-Ari also managed the previous indictment against Atza.
Joanna Paraszczuk contributed to this report.