At Azaria's Trial, Expert Says Autopsy Fails to Show Head Shot Killed Palestinian

Autopsy was 'amateurish,' retired pathologist Prof. Yehuda Hiss says at trial, noting that absence of bleeding along bullet's path in body indicates Palestinian was dead when shot in head by Azaria.

Prof. Yehuda Hiss at Azaria's trial on September 15, 2016.
Dudu Bachar

The autopsy report of the Palestinian assailant shot by Israeli military medic Elor Azaria does not conclusively show that he was alive when he was shot by the soldier, an expert witness for the defense said at Azaria's trial for manslaughter on Thursday. 

Prof. Yehuda Hiss, a former director of the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine, said the autopsy was "amateurish" and that though he doesn't know when Abdel Fattah al-Sharif died, certain signs pointing to death by a head wound were missing. 

"I would expect that in the case of a man being hit while alive, there would be bleeing all along the path (of the bullet wound)," he said. "And that's what's not there on the pathologist's report." 

Azaria was documented on video shooting al-Sharif in the head, while he lay wounded on the ground after stabbing a soldier along with another assailant, who was also killed.

The video, made public by the human-rights group B'Tselem, shows al-Sharif apparently alive, slightly moving his head, surrounded by about ten soldiers and Israeli civilians. Azaria is then seen cocking his gun and shooting a single bullet in his head.  

After Hiss, Dr. Issachar Herman, a psychiatrist, testified that Azaria's judgment may have been impaired due to bad sleep in the days before the incident. "There was a sleep problem," he said, noting that Azaria's sleep on the day before the shooting was short and sporadic. 

Herman also said that Azaria has learning disabilities, and that the defendant told him he had trouble reading the material from his interrogation. In response, the prosecutor presented the court with Azaria's marks on the IDF medic course, which he completed with a score of 93. Azaria's attorneys objected, saying that this was an improper use of military databases on a trial.