DNA
DNA double helix Photo by TheMarker
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A woman whose husband was murdered 17 years ago is backing the convicted killer's request for advanced DNA testing to be done on the crime scene evidence.

The convict hopes the test will exonerate him. But a representative of the widow, Nira Levinson, recently told Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein that she, too, supports the DNA testing, as she believes it might shed more definite light on whether Ovadia Shalom was in fact the killer.

"If professionals believe that with the DNA tests that exist today, it's possible to test things that were not possible in the past and to see things in a different light, I'm in favor of the test, despite the pain involved," Levinson told Haaretz.

The murder occurred one evening in 1994, when Shmuel Levinson, a prominent Jerusalem lawyer who had just become chairman of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, returned to his home in the capital's Rehavia neighborhood and encountered a burglar. Levinson was shot in the chest after a struggle, but managed to call the police before collapsing outside his home.

Shalom, who was a drug addict and known property thief, was originally arrested in connection with other theft cases, but suspicions later surfaced that he had killed Levinson. Though he changed his story repeatedly under interrogation, he never admitted to killing Levinson and ascribed the discrepancies in his statements to symptoms of withdrawal from his drug addiction.

The crime scene was swept for evidence, but neither the police's criminal identification department nor the coroner's office managed to identify the killer. Based on the technology in use at the time, which did not include DNA testing, the coroner's office did say that some of the blood stains found at the scene were consistent with Shalom's blood. But hair found in a sock at the site was determined not to be Shalom's.

Shalom was convicted of the murder and is currently serving a life sentence. A lawyer from the Public Defender's Office, Efrat Fink, has had months of correspondence with the prosecutor's office in an effort to retrieve physical evidence from the case - mainly items that belonged to the victim - so that DNA samples could be taken from them. Aside from the fact that there have been significant advances in genetic testing since the trial, Fink said, cross-referencing DNA samples from the crime scene with a DNA database that police set up in 2005 might also shed light on the true identity of the killer.

The prosecutor's office objected to the DNA testing, in part in deference to the feelings of Levinson's family. But after Haaretz reported on the dispute in August, Nira Levinson saw the story and voiced outrage that sensitivity to the family's feelings was cited as one of the reasons why the prosecutor's office was resisting the testing.

"They won't use my grief as a reason not to reopen the case," she told Haaretz.