High Court: State must honor Turk plea bargain

Judges: Reneging on plea agreement would undermine public’s faith in process; if state attorney didn't like deal, shouldn't have made it.

Moshe Lador 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Moshe Lador 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The High Court of Justice on Sunday ordered the state to honor a plea bargain it signed with Yehiye Turk, the man suspected of the 1999 murder of three-year-old Aviv Iluz and the attempted murder of his father in a car bombing.
The plea bargain, which was signed in October 2010 and determined that Turk would be sentenced for 15 years in prison for an accomplice role, was shortly afterwards rejected by State Attorney Moshe Lador.
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In their ruling, justices Naor, Danziger and Hendel said that reneging on the plea agreement would undermine the public’s faith in the process and ordered the deal to remain in place.
The judges said that if Lador wasn’t happy with the deal, he should have canceled it before it was agreed upon, noting that no new information had been revealed in the case following the agreement that would justify his retracting it.
“What happened, simply, is that the state attorney reevaluated the deal. This reevaluation was conducted following appeals by high-ranking representatives of the police who asked him to reconsider the deal,” wrote Justice Miriam Naor in her ruling.
“The state has not been able to establish that substantial public interest, which wasn’t given proper weight in the plea bargain approved by the deputy state attorney, now justifies backing out of the deal.”
According to the verdict, in its arguments the state claimed that a new trial strategy meant that Turk’s admission of guilt carried less weight that previously thought and therefore the bargain was no longer necessary.
They also argued that it was the prerogative of Lador, who stands at the head of the prosecution pyramid, to reevaluate the decisions of his subordinates.
The judges, however, refused to accept these claims, stating that while there was no question about Lador’s right to intervene, he should only do so in those rare instances in which the public will suffer as a result of his failure to do so.
“The respondents failed to present such a case and failed to explain why we should make an exception and allow the bargain to be rejected, when ordinarily we wouldn’t.
Reneging on this plea bargain is likely to injure the public’s faith in the plea bargain institution in general,” said the judge, before ordering the state to honor the plea bargain, as previously agreed.
Asher Iluz, Aviv’s father, attacked the State Attorney’s Office for its decision to sign the plea bargain in the first place.
“I told them not to sign the deal in the first place, but they didn’t listen to me. They tried to renege on the deal only after it started making headlines. Now this man will go free in a few years and that will be it,” he told reporters.
“They sold out my son’s blood. Innocent people go to the cemetery and criminals go free.”
Iluz said that the prosecution should have listened to him in the first place and seen the case through in court.
Avi Cohen, the publicly appointed lawyer who represented Turk, congratulated the judges on having the courage to order the State Attorney’s Office to honor the bargain, saying it was a fair and principled position.