State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan published a new directive defining what is considered a “murder of exceptional severity” on Tuesday.
The law applies more severe punishment in cases of severe murder, including that of a helpless person and of parents by their children. Nitzan emphasized that all murder is severe, but there are cases in which “the offense also involves harming other significant social values.”
Under the law a murderer sentenced to life imprisonment may be incarcerated for a minimum of 30 years. An amendment to the law in 2014 determined that in cases of severe murder, the perpetrator may be sentenced to at least 40 years.
In his new directive Nitzan says that the amendment should be applied to instances where the murder took place in particularly cruel circumstances, but qualified this by saying that requests to recognize murders as exceptionally severe should be made “carefully and in measure, so that the exceptional will not become the normal.” Nitzan’s directive will not apply to minors.
The list of conditions for severe murder includes murder of young children or helpless people, especially when the murderer was a relative, guardian or custodian of the victim; premeditated murder of a parent, in the absence of any extenuating circumstances; a large number of victims; the murderer’s intention to kill many people, even if he only had one victim – especially if the murder was ideologically or nationalistically motivated; murder committed particularly cruelly, for example when the “murderer abused the victim or his corpse ... or the specific way in which the murder was carried out was particularly cruel,” according to the directive.
A request to recognize a murder as exceptionally severe will also take into account the identity of the victim, and be served when the victim was a member of law enforcement, such as policemen, judges or prosecutors, and the murder was carried out due to his position.
The new instructions will not apply to those convicted of terror offenses, for which the punishment is life imprisonment. The reason for this is that severe punishment already automatically applies to these instances, in the framework of the anti-terror law that became valid three months ago. In the directive Nitzan added that a request to the court to recognize a murder as severe will be served during the legal procedures at the sentencing stage, and requires the approval of the deputy state prosecutor for criminal affairs.
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