Exonerated of Murder, Baranes Awarded NIS 5M

Police investigators denied Amos Baranes his right for due process, Tel Aviv District Court said yesterday, before ruling that Baranes is to be compensated by over NIS 5 million for being wrongfully convicted of murder in 1974 and spending eight years in prison. Baranes was convicted based on a forcefully extracted confession.

Amos Baranes
Itzik Ben-Malki

"I've been dead for 36 years," Baranes said yesterday. "These years cannot be valued in money ... even if they give me the entire country, it won't be enough to compensate. Now everyone understands that Baranes was innocent."

The compensation comprises NIS 4 million for loss of liberty, NIS 720,000 for loss of income, NIS 144,000 for the pain and suffering he endured, NIS 95,000 for legal expenses and NIS 70,000 for his family.

Former deputy attorney general Yehudit Karp, who exposed in a 1980 report much of the police misconduct in the affair, said yesterday no sum of money could compensate Baranes for what he'd been through. "I hope that large-scale compensation suits will force the state, and especially the police, to engage in some self-examination and ensure this doesn't happen again," she told Haaretz. "We thought at the time that merely exposing the police deficiencies would ensure they're not repeated, but we keep hearing about similar conduct by the police today."

Judge Magen Altuvia wrote in his verdict that while one or other police deficiency may not have swayed the court on its own merit, the accumulative effect makes clear that a large number of facts and arguments were unknown to the court that convicted Baranes.

In October 1974, the body of soldier Rachel Heller was found by the side of a road near Caesarea, bearing marks of extreme violence and abuse. Baranes, who had met Heller at a course in Haifa a week before the murder and on two other occasions, was detained for eight days by the original investigative team. The team failed to solve the murder and in April 1975 was replaced by a new force, headed by Chief Superintendent Shaul Marcus.

The team had Baranes rearrested after lying to the remand judge that Baranes was suspected of sexual abuse. He was held in isolation, without being allowed to meet his lawyers and without his whereabouts being revealed to his family. Four days after his second arrest, Baranes wrote and signed a detailed confession, and reconstructed the murder.

After being charged with murder at the Haifa District Court, much of the trial became focused on the admissibility of his confession and reconstruction. Baranes told the court that the confession was give after four days without sleep, which also included beatings by his investigators. He also said police threatened to arrest his family, and when he refused to carry on the reconstruction at the scene, Marcus attacked him. Baranes said he only confessed to stop the pressure from the investigators, and on the assumption he will later be able to explain that the confession had been false.

Although the Haifa court did criticize the conduct of the police, it still convicted Baranes of murder, saying that on comparison between Baranes's testimony and those of experienced investigators, the police's version should be preferred.

Baranes appealed to the Supreme Court, but to no avail. He continued requesting a second trial, and following his requests and the admission by a police officer that illicit actions took place during the investigation, Karp launched a thorough review of the case. In her report, Karp found that some of the officers involved lied to the court. A police officer turned state witness testified that contrary to his own testimony and those of five fellow officers, Marcus was indeed present at the scene, arriving after Baranes stopped midway through the reconstruction. Another witness, the team's scientific adviser, said Marcus walked around the car saying he would "turn Baranes into minced meat."

In June 1983, eight years after his arrest, Baranes's sentence was commuted by the president to time served, and a second trial began in December 2002.