State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and Supreme Court President Miriam Naor have heavily criticized two recent true crime TV series that raised a storm in Israel.
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“Criminal cases are not a reality program, in which the public is asked to text whether the accused is guilty or innocent,” said Nitzan, speaking at the Israel Bar Association conference in Eilat.
He railed against media networks giving a platform to what he called conspiracy theories. “Usually, we treat these theories with kindness, but we all must understand that this is a real danger to democracy,” he said.
Naor warned of “alternative courts,” and said the two series were “sensational reports that pretend to know the entire truth, even when there is no factual basis to the conjectures raised in them.”
Also speaking in Eilat, Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger addressed the question of whether a minority opinion creates reasonable doubt. Danziger sided with the minority in the appeal of Zadorov, voting for acquittal.
“In my humble opinion, the public trust actually increases when a defendant is acquitted on a minority opinion, even when only one judge votes for it. The principle of the majority cannot overcome the presumption of innocence, which is the fundamental principle of criminal law,” he said.
Danziger’s remarks constituted support for a bill introduced by MK Revital Swid (Zionist Union) that would require a unanimous opinion by the panel of judges for a conviction of an offense where the sentence is life in prison.
The two TV series – “Shadow of Truth” was on Channel 8; “Capital Offenses” on Channel 10 – both criticized the Israeli court system. “Shadow of Truth” purportedly revealed evidence that was unknown to the public about Rada’s murder in a restroom at her school, and triggered a stormy public debate.
Nitzan labeled the series “Blind Shadow of Truth,” noting, “The many pieces of evidence that led to the conviction of Zadorov by six out of seven judges who dealt with the case were presented only in summary – with some of them not presented at all. Meanwhile, other theories about the identity of the murderer, which were investigated and ruled out, were given a big platform while playing down their weaknesses and inconsistencies.”
The state prosecutor slammed the series’ concluding episode, which presented the testimony of “A.H.,” who claimed that his ex-girlfriend, “A.K.,” had confessed to him that she killed Rada.
“This series’ masterpiece – presented with television effects, of course – was the testimony that was presented as new but was thoroughly examined four years ago,” Nitzan noted.
Naor addressed the workings of the legal system. “The court hears much evidence and rules what it rules. An appeal is submitted and again three judges sit on the bench. But someone else thinks he knows the truth better than the court, and knows what really happened.
“No doubt mistakes are made sometimes in ruling on the facts in a court case,” she added. “The courts recognize this and work to correct errors when needed. It is legitimate to conduct investigations. However, there is a difference between investigative journalism and creating dramatic headlines that remain headlines without factual backing.”
Nitzan also attacked “Capital Offenses,” saying the series was “filled with serious slurs, unfounded and patently false.” He said the first three episodes included “harsh slander against the state prosecution regarding specific cases, with general claims and baseless slogans that were scattered across the airwaves.”
He added that it was a perhaps unprecedented low point that a major Israeli network allowed such a broadcast.
The creators of “Shadow of Truth” rejected the criticism. “The series provides different angles to the affair, part of which the public was not at all aware of, and it is more dangerous to say that it is forbidden for the public to know about it,” they said.