Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The days when Judges Judged.

Woe to the generation that judges its judges and woe to the generation that has to judge its judges." 
(Midrash Rabba, Ruth)

I am sure a sleepless night is taking place for many a lawyer in the state prosecution in Israel. Tomorrow a verdict in the trial of former president Katzav is meant to be handed down. Should the court find him not guilty all hell might break loose in Israel. It is literally the state prosecution that will have to face the court (of public opinion) for having "taken down" a president, who was ultimately found not guilty. Since there is already a sizable movement in Israel who believe that the state prosecution is politically motivated, should a verdict of not guilty be handed down, this would be a landmark case. Heads will certainly roll.

One of the interesting twists in this case, is that progressive women's rights groups might have been critical in achieving a "not guilty" verdict. When it seemed as if a plea bargain would be struck, they ran to the supreme court to block it. This move forced the prosecution to explain their reasoning for agreeing to a plea bargain by stating that they are not certain they could get a conviction. When the prosecution is on record as stating that they have doubts about their main witnesses in the case, it is hard to see how a judge can say that Katzav is a rapist beyond a reasonable doubt. This was literally a case where over eager zeal, forced the state prosecution to shoot itself in the foot. (Though to be fair no one could imagine that Katzav would back out of the plea bargain) 

What will happen if Katzav is found guilty? Sadly very little. The major papers will run with it for a day or two, but that will be it. In public opinion Katzav has been rendered a rapist for the last 4 years. The court decision will only confirm what everyone has already assumed to be true. 

For the sake of the public advancment I truly hope that Katzav is found not guilty (and not due to legal technicalities). As I stated – A verdict of guilty would lead to no soul searching – Katzav has been seen assumed guilty for years. However a verdict of not guilty might just be the catalyst for some real change, especially in the relationship between the court and the media. It might also finally allow a real discussion of the inherent problems of the defence in sexual harassment cases, without the cries of Political Correctness drowning out all voices of reason.   

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