(Dead People Cannot Move) Hebron Shooting

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I’ve put in italics the strangest part of the strangest part of the Judges’ conclusion regarding the manslaughter conviction delivered without a reasonable doubt by a Tel Aviv military court in the trial of Sergeant Elor Azaria. It has to do with the possibility suggested by the defense that the Palestinian man who was wounded and incapacitated in the course of an earlier attack against soldiers in occupied Hebron was actually dead before being shot in the head by the sergeant.

“While initially it was claimed that the terrorist’s death was caused by “tension pneumothorax” caused by the initial shots fired by other soldiers, at a later stage the defense proffered a new theory to the effect that the terrorist died of “cardiac embolism,” even before anyone had shot him. On the issue of the causal connection, three witnesses testified: On behalf of the military prosecution Dr. Gips testified and on behalf of the defense Prof. Hiss and Prof. Shimon testified. After hearing their testimony, and after examining their opinions in light of the overall factual infrastructure, we preferred Dr. Gips’ reasoned professional opinion. That opinion, the reasons for our adoption of which we have laid out in detail, finds that the terrorist’s death was caused as a result of the shooting to his head, whilst negating the possibility that the terrorist had died as a result of “tension pneumothorax” or “cardiac embolism.” That opinion also negates outright the factual possibility, for which the defense experts offered no basis at all, that a dead person is able to move.”

In this post-truth era, statements of fact and counter-factuals are funny things. The claim by the defense that the attacker was already dead before being shot by the sergeant conflicted with the video clip showing the downed terrorist moving, which was also claimed by the defense as having given cause for the sergeant’s fear that the wounded attacker continued to present a danger. While appreciating that facts have a different and attenuated status in legal settings, one is struck by the need forcing the judges to confirm that there is no factual basis supporting the notion that a dead person is able to move.

You can read the entire ruling here.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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4 Responses to (Dead People Cannot Move) Hebron Shooting

  1. Zvi Cohen says:

    It’s an amusing quote, but not symptomatic of a “post-truth era” in any way. The context, as you point out, deals with the defense’s inability to [simultaneously] “grab the rope from both ends” – a traditional reference to the need for logical consistency. Logical consistency is a pretty old-fashioned constraint on reaching conclusions the truth of which is beyond reasonable doubt. By the way, in the Hebrew the question discussed was whether “X Yachol Lazuz,” which is ambiguous, and can mean that it’s possible for X to move [so not best translated as implying having the capacity or “ability” to move on its own volition]; if an inanimate object is not positioned as it was when last seen, that might be because that object “Yachol Lazuz”, due to any number of causes. Not that that was the issue raised by the defense’s trying to have it both ways, though (as if the victim had already been dead, but still posed a threat based on its movements). Seems like a good verdict delivered by a healthy, functioning system.

    • zjb says:

      it’s not the judges’ statement that’s post truth, it was the argument for the defense that i was tagging as such. I have great respect for the old guard Israeli establishment

      • Zvi Cohen says:

        I think that, in an adversarial legal system, a legal team that emphasizes truth-telling is probably not doing its real job. According to my understanding of adversarial, procedural justice, a trial with partisan/biased lawyers following correct procedures managed and concluded by competent judges is the “ritual” most likely to result in a verdict that’s true and a sentence that’s just. In this sense, the legal profession (though not necessarily judges) was “post-truth” from day one, by design.

  2. Zeev says:

    I dont reacy much to all your thoughts
    But pray do tell why this is of any importance or relevance to anything?

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