Preventing murder

Excuses won’t bring the slain back to life. Vigilance beforehand can prevent murder.

Man in handcuffs - illustrative (photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
Man in handcuffs - illustrative
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
The combination of judicial indifference and police apathy – if not arrogance – can cost lives.
One of the latest spine-chilling examples is that of Avital Rokeach, whose murder last week was a foreseeable tragedy.
Her estranged husband, Shmuel Datiashvilli, stalked and threatened her obsessively since their separation three years ago. He serially violated restriction orders and showed Rokeach knives and axes he purchased in order to slay her. He recently demonstrated, with a blade held to her neck, how he would kill her.
After that frightening preview, she rushed to the police and he was picked up and remanded in custody.
A day later he was freed on court orders. He made his way to her Jerusalem home and stabbed her 42 times in the building’s stairway.
The family expressed outrage that despite a record of violence and a history of complaints by the victim, Datiashvilli had been let go. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
Here the blame-game begins. The police say they were obligated to obey the court ruling to let the bullying spouse go. The court counters that the police formally requested he be allowed out, subject to a set of legal constraints. This ostensibly left the judge no leeway.
Next on the police list of excuses is the fact that Rokeach was informed of the release and was offered accommodation at a shelter for battered women outside Jerusalem. She refused to be evacuated there.
She argued that an out-of-town location would mean losing her job and would impose a quasi-prison sentence on her and her three children for an unlimited period. Meanwhile, the man who terrorizes her walks free, his life undisrupted. The upshot is that she would be punished for his sins.
This refusal, the police maintain, cost Rokeach her life.
This is an unacceptable position that prefers the abuser’s rights to those of the woman he menaces, and this was hardly an exceptional case.
A few weeks before the brutal Jerusalem homicide, prominent singer and restaurant owner Dafna Bar-Zion was found dead in Tel Aviv, her skull bashed in by repeated hammer blows. Her estranged husband, guitarist Ilan Ben-Ami, was arrested and subsequently confessed to the murder. This too was a case with a long litany of complaints to the police by the victim about the assailant’s violence. Here too nothing was done despite the bold writing on the wall.
All the high-minded lip service about protecting women from predictable domestic harm (as distinguished from a sudden, unexpected flare-up) is humbug.
This is as true of the police as it is of the judicial system.
Their mutual recriminations notwithstanding, these two branches of our legal system feed off each other and to no negligible extent inspire each other’s reactions.
The guilt cannot be attributed to one official culprit exclusively.
We know that the police has a long and dishonorable record of apathy and unresponsiveness. The dismissive attitude toward the distress cellphone call from one of the three teenagers Hamas kidnapped (and then murdered) three months ago was not the first such instance, and nobody can guarantee that it will be the last.
The 2006 case of 21-year-old Petah Tikva woman Inbal Amram still stands out for gross police heedlessness.
Her father reported her missing but was disdainfully ejected from the police station. Amram was later discovered bleeding to death. Here too judicial laxity was involved. Her murderer, serial car-thief Muhammad Ja’adi, had been released from detention numerous times despite his ultra-sinister rap sheet.
Excuses won’t bring the slain back to life. Vigilance beforehand can prevent murder.
It may involve technical measures such as ankle bracelets for suspects released from custody. It may necessitate legislation limiting the option to set loose suspects previously accused or convicted of violent acts. Life-and-death decisions must be disengaged from the reckless whims of an individual officer or judge.