'Over a thousand innocent people in prison'

Chen Eilati's acquittal of mother's murder raises question of innocents sitting in prison. Why is this happening, and how can we cope?

Mordechai Sones ,

Jail (illustration)
Jail (illustration)
Thinkstock

Chen Eilati, who was suspected of murdering his mother a year ago at Kibbutz Mahanaim, was acquitted on Tuesday, after doubts were raised regarding the accusations against him. His family is divided in their attitude toward the judges' decision.

In an interview with Arutz Sheva, attorney Nir Yaslovich, an expert on criminal law, spoke about the incidence of innocent people serving sentences in Israeli prisons.

On the occurrence of such circumstances, Atty. Yaslovich notes that this is a widespread phenomenon that has been investigated by Professor Sanjaro and has been published in book form, which shows that at least one thousand Israelis are in prison for no fault of their own.

"This is made up of several societal ills," says Yaslovich, and mentions one way to solve the problem that was sought by former Justice Minister Prof. Daniel Friedman, who tried to promote an initiative to select judges from the ranks of the defense and not just from among prosecutors. Yaslovich mentions that this initiative has been criticized, but it is a welcome process that can introduce a broader view into the judicial system, a more attentive and less categorical system.

"If judges were appointed from among defense attorneys, we would see more acquittals," he says. "I see judges presiding over trials almost every day looking for how to convict and not how to acquit. We see it in many cases."

On Eilati's acquittal, he notes that in this case, "the witness turned out to be lying and unreliable," and this raises two main questions: "How come the investigators did not notice that a witness in a murder case is a liar? This is not a simple case, and the question arises what happens in other cases where the witnesses are not proven liars."

As for the reason why selection of judges comes from the ranks of the prosecution and not the defense, Yaslovich says that the reason for this is simple: "What happens is that members of the prosecution are the ones who choose their colleagues from the ranks of the prosecution, and when a friend announces candidacy it is easy to choose him."

He says that he and his defense attorney colleagues often find themselves in the role of someone who has to prove that their client is not guilty and not that the burden will be on the prosecution to prove the suspect's guilt.

As part of the efforts and attempts to deal with this phenomenon, he is working on the establishment of the "Innocence" project, which seeks to imitate the American model that succeeded in obtaining acquittals for over one hundred convicted persons who were sentenced to death in final judgments. In this project, a group of experts will be organized to assist those who feel that they were wrongly accused and can prove through forensic examinations their innocence. "My method of action is to take from what is done well in the US and not just from the bad. Take this method and implement it in Israel."



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