Fresh Psych Exam Finds Abu Khdeir Killer Legally Responsible for Murder

While the two minor co-defendants in the trial were already convicted for their part in the murder of the Palestinian child in the summer of 2014, the court has yet to rule on Yosef Haim Ben-David's culpability.

Yosef Ben-David in Jerusalem District Court, December 19, 2015.
Emil Salman

Yosef Haim Ben-David, the lead defendant in the Mohammed Abu Khdeir trial, is legally responsible for the 2014 murder of the Palestinian teen, according to a psychiatric evaluation filed with the Jerusalem District Court in the last few days.

While the two minor co-defendants in the trial were already convicted for their part in the murder of the Palestinian child in the summer of 2014, the court has yet to rule on Ben-David culpability, though it found that he committed the actions which led to Abu Khdeir's death.

The question of Ben-David's culpability has been on the table since his arrest. The man, who ran an eyeglasses store in Jerusalem, was treated by psychiatrics prior to the murder. The prosecution rejected the defense's claims that he wasn't legally responsible for his actions. During the trial his lawyers kept him off the stand claiming that in was impossible to communicate with him.

A few weeks ago, just prior to the sentencing hearing, the defense submitted a psychiatric evaluation, which claimed that Ben-David was not responsible for his actions. After the psychiatrist for the defense was questioned by the prosecution, an alternative psychiatric evaluation was prepared with the consent of the court. It found that the defendant was legally responsible for his actions.

The evaluation found that in contrast to his defense's claims, Ben David understood the charges brought against him as well as the crimes they entailed. It also found that though he was receiving psychiatric medication, he was not in a psychotic state that required he be hospitalized. The evaluation labeled his attempt to pass as mentally unfit an "impersonation."

News of this new assessment, signed by the Jerusalem district psychiatrist, was first reported by Channel 2 news, and one of its authors will testify in court in the coming weeks.

Abu Khdeir was abducted in the early hours of July 2, 2014 from the Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Shoafat, close to his home. He was driven to the Jerusalem Forest, where he was beaten and burned alive by his kidnappers. The state has officially recognized him as a victim of terror.

Suha and Hussein Abu Khdeir, center, parents of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, hold posters with his portrait after the reading of the verdict in his killing, at the Jerusalem District Court, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015.
AFP