On Sunday the Supreme Court overturned a lower court
decision of about a year ago and convicted Nachum Korman of
manslaughter in the death of 11-year-old Palestinian boy
Hilmi Shousha in 1996. At the time the incident was
publicized as a case of Jewish brutality towards Arab
Korman, then security officer of the Hadar Betar settlement
near Jerusalem, had entered the Arab village of Husan to
stop youths stoning Israeli cars on the road below. He left
his Jeep and ran, gun in hand, after Shousha, who apparently
was on his way home from school.
According to the prosecution, Korman beat and kicked the
child, knocked him down, put his foot on his neck and struck
him with the butt of his pistol.
Korman contended, however, that when he approached the boy
and asked him why he had thrown stones, Shousha responded
"No, no" and fell onto the ground in a faint. Korman claims
he tried to revive the child and then carried him toward his
Jeep. There was no one else around until they reached the
vehicle, when three women came out from nearby homes. One
hit Korman with a stick while he tried to resuscitate
Shousha. When he realized that his efforts were in vain,
Korman drove with the boy and two villagers, one hand on the
wheel and the other helping one of the villagers try to
revive Shousha. At Beitar Junction he handed the boy over to
medics whom he had alerted.
The prosecution's case relied heavily on the testimony of
the boy's two brothers and another villager who said that
they saw Korman beating the boy as well as the government
The chief government pathologist, Dr. Yehuda Hiss, director
of the Forensic Institute at Abu Kabir, wrote in his first
report that the injuries could have been caused without any
contact between the victim and the accused. The injuries
that he described were not consistent with the beatings that
the witnesses said they saw. In a later report, he wrote
that the injuries were caused by blows.
In her opinion acquitting Korman, the judge Orr said that
Professor Hiss had been influenced by the brothers' false
testimony and was no longer objective. She said there was no
proof that Korman ever touched Shousha. She said that it was
for the court to determine whether to believe the witnesses,
and not for the pathologist.
The panel of three High Court justices, including Dalia
Dorner, Dorit Beinisch and Ayala Procaccia, found that
Korman had killed the boy and sent the case back to
Jerusalem District Court for sentencing. The charge of
manslaughter carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.
The High Court ruled that the first autopsy by Chief Coroner
Yehuda Hiss and additional evidence related to the case
proved that Hilmi Shousha had died of a tear in the spinal
artery which was caused by a blow and that the blow had been
administered by Korman.
Dorner, Beinisch, and Procaccia did not contradict Jerusalem
District Court Judge Orr's decision to ignore the testimony
of the Shousha cousins and Hiss's final autopsy. However,
they determined that Hiss's preliminary report and
additional circumstantial evidence was sufficient to convict
Korman. They said that in order to suffer a tear of the
artery, Shousha would have had to have fallen backwards,
struck a hard object and sharply twisted his neck. But when
questioned by police on the day of the incident, Korman said
Shousha had fainted but did not say he had fallen backwards
or hit his head on a sharp object. It was only in court,
after the pathologists had found that Shousha had indeed
been struck, that Korman claimed for the first time that
Shousha had fallen backwards and suffered a blow to his
Furthermore, this version of events could not explain other
internal wounds that appeared on either side of the tear.
The defense claimed they were sustained afterwards, when
Shousha was evacuated and driven to hospital.
Professor Hiss gave important evidence that is controversial
in several other incidents. The report that he filed about
the slain Yitzhak Rabin that there was no frontal wound
contradicts the reports of the surgeon who first treated the
prime minister and other doctors on the scene who said that
there was a frontal wound.
Last year an anonymous colleague at Abu Kabir said that
Professor Hiss is very loyal to the establishment "and
expends great efforts to interpret the facts in accordance
with the establishment's position."
Korman's brother said that it seemed to him that at the
first hearing the justices had not even read the case
summary of the district judge, but seemed to have already
made up their minds about the disposition of the case.