Murder of Tair Rada
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The Murder of Tair Rada (Hebrew: תָּאִיר רָאדָה), a 13-year-old Israeli schoolgirl, was committed in 2006, in the girls' bathroom of her school in Katzrin. Roman Zadorov (Ukrainian: Роман Задоров; Hebrew: רוֹמָן זָדוֹרוֹב), a Ukrainian and a resident of Israel, is serving a life sentence for the murder. His prosecution and conviction have been a source of controversy, receiving a lot of media coverage, as well as being the focus of an Israeli documentary TV series called Shadow of Truth that has gained worldwide attention on Netflix.
- 1 Murder and initial investigation
- 2 Indictment and trial
- 3 Students in Tair's high school
- 4 Judicial process
- 5 Judge Yitzhak Cohen affair
- 6 Conduct of the State Prosecution, Dr Forman and Dr Kugel affairs
- 7 State Prosecutors' strike, Commissioner of Prosecutorial Oversight resignation
- 8 Parents, public, and media
- 9 Shadow of Truth
- 10 External links
- 11 References
Murder and initial investigation
In December 2006, 13-year-old Tair Rada of Katzrin reportedly decided to skip the last period of that schoolday. She stayed outside in the schoolyard with friends for a while, before going back into the building to get a drink of water. She was last seen by several students going up a staircase leading to a mid-floor of 10th grade classes. Later that afternoon, when she failed to return home, her mother contacted the police, and a search began. That evening around 7 p.m., she was found murdered in a locked stall in the girls' bathroom—her throat slit twice and multiple additional cuts to her face, torso, and hands.
According to news reports from the evening of the murder, the police's initial estimate was that classmates were involved. This theory was dismissed soon thereafter. On the night of the murder, police detained a homeless person as a suspect. Three days later police detained the school gardener as well. Both were released two days later due to the fact they weren't at or near the school on that day and their alibis were confirmed.
On December 11, police detained and interrogated Zadorov. On December 19, 2 weeks after the murder, police announced in a press conference during prime time television, on the 8 p.m. evening news, that Roman Zadorov, a maintenance man, is held as the most likely suspect and that he had admitted and reenacted the murder. A day later, his attorney informed that he had recanted his confession.
The motive for the murder, as initially stated by the police, was insults hurled at Zadorov after he denied Tair's request for a cigarette. Both her family and friends, however, stated that not only did she not smoke, but she couldn't even stand the smell of cigarettes. They also stated that rude behaviour and cursing were very uncharacteristic of her. That motive was dropped. Police later claimed that the motive was sexual abuse Zadorov suffered by female classmates when he was an 8-year-old in the Ukraine, which caused a rage fit after he suffered continuous pestering by the school's students during his work, but that could not be confirmed. No alternative motive for the murder was presented by police in the indictment.[failed verification]
Indictment and trial
Confession and Reenactment
Initially, the Israel Police leaked to the press that DNA samples from the crime scene were matched with Zadorov's.
The State Prosecution explained the filing of the indictment with no DNA evidence or laboratory test results as follows:
- The fact that the prosecution filed an indictment based on substantial evidence that exists implicating Zadorov without waiting for the U.S. lab results show there is sufficient evidence tying him to the murder, and the case isn't based wholly on that issue.
The DNA test results were inconclusive.
A shoe-print police expert by the name Yaron Shor claimed to have found additional bloody footprints on Tair Rada's jeans that matched Zadorov's Salamander shoes. British shoe imprint expert Dr. Guy Cooper testified in 2009 that the stains could not be considered Zadorov's shoe imprints, if shoe imprints at all. His testimony was dismissed by the Court.
FBI veteran, shoe imprint expert William Bodziak, also claimed in his 2013 testimony that these stains could not be determined to be Zadorov's shoe imprints, if shoe imprints at all. His testimony was also dismissed by the Court.
Hairs discovered at the murder scene did not match Zadorov. Three hairs found on Rada's body belonged to three different unknown people. Not all hairs found in the crime scene were tested for DNA, since the police told the lab to stop all tests once Zadorov confessed.
Other biological evidence
Students in Tair's high school
Media reports in the early days after the murder criticized the Israel Police for searching for the murderer through the vast areas of the Golan Heights and the Galilee, instead of focusing on suspects within the school building itself.
One of the students later testified in Court that she saw under the bathroom stall, where the murder was committed, Tair's Puma shoes, youth-size Allstar shoes and blood.
A long list of students went through the bathroom around the time of the murder, while Tair apparently struggled with the murderers, and some of them even noticed highly suspicious circumstances.
Tair's mother stated on various occasions that she didn't believe that Zadorov was the murderer, and that she believed that the true murderers were "from Tair's world". She alluded that the murderers were high school students whom she believed to be members of a Satanic cult.
In May 2016, an attorney representing two of the female students, Nufar Ben David and Lee Lahyani issued a letter to leaders of Roman Zadorov's support groups a "warning prior to filing a lawsuit" letter, demanding an apology, adequate monetary compensation, and a promise to cease defamatory publication. In response, recipients of the demands and threat published on June 4, 2016 a statement, rejecting the demands. Later that year, slander lawsuits were filed.
Trial commenced in January 2007 with the filing of the indictment in the Nazareth District Court, followed by the September 2010 initial conviction, October 2010 filing of Zadorov's appeal in the Supreme Court of Israel, March 2013 remand to the Nazareth District Court for additional review of the evidence, and February 2014 supplemental judgment by the Nazareth District Court—again convicting Zadorov. On December 23, 2015, the Israeli Supreme Court denied Zadorov's appeal by a 2 to 1 decision of a panel of three justices. Zadorov's team immediately asked for a new hearing by an expanded panel.
No signed confession was filed with the indictment, Zadorov having recanted both his confessions and refused to sign his second one. However, police officers testified that he confessed in investigation that he had committed the murder. No motive for the murder was provided in the indictment.
The 456 page, September 2010 conviction by a three-judge panel headed by Judge Yitzhak Cohen—then Presiding Judge of the Nazareth District Court—was read out in a dramatic open court hearing. It stated that there was no doubt that Zadorov was the murderer, and that his testimony was full of lies and manipulations. Therefore, Zadorov was further convicted on obstruction of a police investigation. The lack of any motive for the murder was found no object by the judges.
- William Bodziak, a world-renowned forensics expert—regarding the footprint found on the clothes of the murdered girl, and
- Dr. Maya Forman-Reznik, a pathologist—regarding the murder weapon and the trauma injuries found on her head.
Key evidence, relating to the murder knife and shoe imprints, key issues in this case, were not settled. In February 2014, the Nazareth District Court returned a supplemental judgment, again convicting Zadorov. The Nazareth District Court rejected the testimony of the defense expert about the kind of knife used in the murder, and called the assertion that it was not possible to identify the bloody shoe print "embarrassing and fundamentally flawed."
The December 23, 2015 denial of the appeal by the Supreme Court of Israel was rendered by a 2:1 split panel. The Jerusalem Post summed up the controversy and the Supreme Court's decision as follows:
- The case captivated the media and public. It was a tragic, small-town murder that, from the beginning, was dogged by rumors, including that local teenagers had killed Rada and the town or teachers had covered it up, finding an easy fall guy in Zadorov, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union... The 300-page majority opinion upholding the conviction on Wednesday, which included justices Isaac Amit and Zvi Zylbertal, found three major grounds for its decision, despite the disputes over the shoe prints and the knife. Aspects of Zadorov's confession while under arrest to a confidential informant, of his confession to interrogators and his participation in reenacting aspects of the crime were decisive, wrote the court.
The Zadorov case raised the issue of prosecutorial misconduct, lack of oversight of the State Prosecution, false convictions in general, and reluctance of the Israeli courts to reverse false convictions.
Judge Yitzhak Cohen affair
By September 2014, Presiding Judge Yitzhak Cohen of the Nazareth District Court, who twice convicted Zadorov, left on vacation, and by November 2014 he resigned, after police recommended his prosecution for sexual harassment of a female attorney in his chambers.
Conduct of the State Prosecution, Dr Forman and Dr Kugel affairs
Regarding the Zadorov affair, Law Professor Mordechai Kremnitzer wrote in October 2014: "Conduct of the prosecution is scary... the State Prosecution is not seeking the truth... the justice system is mostly busy protecting itself..." His comments were published in the wake of the Tel-Aviv Labor Court judgment in the lawsuit of senior forensic medical expert Dr Maya Forman against the State of Israel, Ministry of Health and others. Her case became an entirely separate scandal, which was described by Israeli media as persecution, settlement of accounts, and a retaliation campaign by Chief State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan against Dr Forman for her professional, honest, expert testimony in the Zadorov affair.
The State Prosecution first fought to prevent Dr Forman from testifying in the Nazareth court in Roman Zadorov's case. Dr Forman eventually testified for Zadorov in the Nazareth District Court that the murder was committed using a serrated knife, not a smooth-edged Japanese knife.
In its February 2014 supplemental judgment the Nazareth District Court not only rejected Dr Forman's expert testimony, but also heavily criticized her professional conduct.
The labor dispute became a scandal in its own sake, with the Israeli Medical Association joining as a friend of the court, strongly supporting Dr Forman. Moreover, while the Israeli Ministry of Health was named Defendant in the labor dispute, Minister of Health Yael German wrote a public letter to the Attorney General, stating that his conduct against Dr Forman "lacks legal foundation and carries overarching and dangerous implications... blatant violation of Human Rights, the fundamentals of law and justice..."
The case in the Tel-Aviv Labor Court then generated another separate scandal, when the State Prosecution tried to solicit an affidavit in support of its position from another senior forensic medical expert in the State Forensic Institute, Dr Chen Kugel. Dr Kugel provided the State Prosecution a curve-ball affidavit, which for the first time disclosed that he also supported Dr Forman's professional opinion that the murder was committed using a serrated knife. Dr Kugel never testified in the Nazareth District Court trial. However, the State Prosecution made false representations to the Court, suggesting that Kugel supported the Prosecution's position regarding the knife. It was even relied upon in the Conviction. Dr Kugel's affidavit in the Tel-Aviv Labor Court also strongly objected to any professional restrictions on an expert, i.e., Dr Forman, who provided an honest professional opinion in court, as a dangerous precedent.
The State Prosecution first tried to gag Dr Kugel, and prevent his affidavit from being filed. Then, the State Prosecution tried to heavily edit his affidavit. Eventually, Dr Kugel's affidavit was filed, unmodified, both in the Tel-Aviv Labor Court and in Zadorov's appeal in the Supreme Court. Furthermore, both the original affidavit and the edited affidavit, proposed by the State Prosecution, were published, causing a new wave of criticism against the State Prosecution: Experts raised concerns that the Prosecution's conduct relative to Dr Kugel's affidavit amounted to tampering with a witness.
In the wake of Dr Forman victory in the Tel-Aviv Labor Court, senior law professor and former dean of the Hebrew University Law School Yoav Dotan wrote: "Dr Forman and Mr Nitzan". In his opinion article, Prof Dotan emphasized the wider implications of the entire affair, which undermined due process. Prof Dotan also criticized the extreme concentration of power by the State Prosecution and its lack of accountability, supporting the ongoing calls for a major reform in the offices of Attorney General and Chief State Prosecutor.
The Dr Formal and Dr Kugel scandals expanded into a heated debate over integrity, lack of accountability for wrongdoing, and resistance of the State Prosecution to any civilian oversight. 
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein issued an opinion supporting the State's right to change officials' affidavits.
Also in December 2015, Dr Hen Kugel, by then Director of the State Forensic Institute, stated in an interview with media: "I am intimidated by the State Prosecution".
The case also raised again the issue of the lack of integrity in the State Forensic Medical Institute before Dr Forman and Dr Kugel joined it. Prof Sangero wrote: "For decades the Israel Police and the State Prosecution dominated the Institute. Monopoly of police and the prosecution over scientific evidence has been established, and the evidence has been used almost exclusively to support convictions."
Partly in the wake of the Dr Forman and Dr Kugel affairs, Commissioner of Prosecutorial Oversight Judge (ret) Hila Gerstel conducted a review of the relationships between the State Prosecution and the State Forensic Institute, and generated a report, which was due for publication in April 2016. However, in late March 2016, 11 senior prosecutors filed a petition with the Supreme Court, asking to prohibit the publication of the report, claiming that it would "damage their reputation".
Following Commissioner Gerstel's report, regarding conduct of the State Prosecution, relative to the Dr Kugel affidavit, attempt was made to conduct an ethics complaint procedure against three senior State Prosecution attorneys by the Israel Bar Association. In May 2016, Attorney Avichai Mandelblit (who by then replaced Yehuda Weinstein in that office) used his authority and blocked the Bar complaint process.
State Prosecutors' strike, Commissioner of Prosecutorial Oversight resignation
Commissioner of Prosecutorial Oversight, Judge (ret) Hila Gerstel's review of conduct of the State Prosecution, related to the Zadorov affair, generated ever growing tension between her and the State Prosecution. In December 2015, Commissioner Gerstel issued a letter, which was described by media "rare in its severity", stating that Chief State Prosecutor "is not saying the truth", and that his report to the Attorney General, regarding the Dr Forman affair was full of falsifications and untruths.
On April 4, 2016, a few days after filing the petition to block the publication of Commissioner Gerstel's report regarding the State Prosecution-Forensic Institute relationships, the State Prosecutors' Union declared a strike for an indefinite period, protesting the authority of Commissioner Gerstlel to oversee their conduct.
On April 18, 2016, facing the State Prosecutors' strike and the petition, and realizing that she had no sufficient backing from Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Commissioner Gerstel resigned. In June 2016, Chair of the State Prosecutors' Union referred in an interview to Commissioner Gerstel as "a pirate".
In an early June 2016 appearance before the Knesset's Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee in a hearing regarding the future of the Commissioner of Prosecutorial Oversight, and referring also to Attorney General Mandelblit's blocking of the Israel Bar Association review of conduct of senior State Prosecutors, relative to the attempt to pervert Dr Kugel's affidavit, senior law professor and former Justice Minister Daniel Friedman stated in a June 2016 "The Attorney General cannot gag the entire State, and not let anybody voice an opinion".
Parents, public, and media
The victim's mother did not believe that Zadorov is the murderer. In early 2007 she filed a petition with the Israeli Supreme Court, asking for re-opening of the murder investigation. The petition was summarily denied.  
In 2010, Tair's mother told media: "As far as I'm concerned, anything to do with the court, the prosecution and the police is pure delinquency. They abandoned my daughter." On various other occasions she explicitly stated that she believed that her daughter was killed by students in the school who were members of a Satanic cult.
In December 2014, a group of activists, who closely followed the case, filed with the Attorney General criminal complaints against the Israel Police investigation team for obstruction of the investigation and fabrication of evidence, and separately against the State Prosecution team - for fraud in the court.
In December 2015 demonstrations were held in Tel-Aviv central square in support of justice for Roman Zadorov and renewed investigation of Tair Rada's murder. An international Avaaz petition was launched, calling upon Israeli President Rivlin to pardon on commute Zadorov's sentence. The petition was endorsed by notable US Rabbi Michael Lerner (rabbi), by notable US public intellectual Prof Noam Chomsky, and by veteran FBI agent and whistle-blower Coleen Rowley.
In a mid January 2016 Knesset oversight committee hearing it was exposed that the Israel Police obtained a court decree and tried to confiscate all materials obtained by Channel 2 investigative journalism program "Uvdah" regarding misconduct in the State Forensic Institute. According to "Uvdah" journalist Omri Essenheim, a policeman had appeared in their editorial offices and demanded to obtain any materials that had been collected as part of their investigative journalism work relative to conduct of the State Forensic Institute. The editorial staff refused to comply with police demands. Mr Essenheim added: "In the Zadorov affair the State Prosecution acted contrary to its stated mission of seeking the truth."
Shadow of Truth
In early 2016, a four-part documentary TV series was aired in Israel, called Shadow of Truth, reviewing the Tair Rada murder/Roman Zadorov conviction affair. It caused a major media storm, raising many doubts regarding Zadorov's conviction and pointing at many flaws in his investigation and trial. The fourth episode revealed a never-heard-before testimony of a man (referred to in the series as A.H.), who told the police in 2012 that his ex-girlfriend had confessed to him on the day of the murder, and even showed him a knife and clothes soaked in blood. Following his testimony, his ex-girlfriend (referred to as A.K.) was then arrested by police and investigated under suspicion of murder. While she was in house arrest, she left her home and tried to kill someone, and was subsequently sent to a psychiatric hospital without being further interrogated about her involvement in the Rada case. Along with his own lawyer and Zadorov's public defender, who are also interviewed in the episode, A.H. claims that the investigation had been whitewashed.
After the series aired, Chief State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan stated in a widely reported public appearance that the series is "a danger to democracy". The series' creators responded by saying "He who thinks that freedom of speech endangers democracy, is a danger to it himself". In January 2017, Netflix bought the rights to the series, making it available in over 190 countries around the world.
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