A TV documentary upended a murder case and captivated the nation. But its sensational theories might also be distorting justice.
Tair Rada, a 13-year-old Israeli who was murdered in 2006, as seen in a home movie. Credit... Photo illustration by Mike McQuade. Source photograph: Screen grab courtesy of Ilana Rada.
There is little about the limestone courthouse in Nazareth, a predominantly Arab town in northern Israel, to suggest that it would be the setting of Israel’s most-talked-about trial.
Only three rows of seats make up the courtroom’s public galleries. This means that the murder victim’s mother may find herself seated directly behind the wife of her daughter’s suspected killer. The place is so ill equipped for onlookers that, should a prosecutor choose to play the defendant’s confession on video — as happened when I attended on a Sunday in March — the scrum of reporters and photographers have to strain behind her laptop to watch.
The case of Tair Rada, a 13-year-old girl who was found with her throat slit in a bathroom stall of her middle school, has riveted the country almost from the moment she was killed in 2006. The murder took place in broad daylight in Katzrin, a sleepy town in northern Israel. “A ‘Twin Peaks’ story,” as one reporter who covers the trial told me. In 2010, a Ukrainian-born man named Roman Zdorov was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison. But doubts about his guilt have dogged the case, furnishing material for no fewer than six prime-time investigations and as many books. Last year, a Supreme Court judge granted Zdorov a new trial. Over the past 10 months, 85 witnesses have testified. Most days, the case has dominated the headlines, often eclipsing interest in the ongoing corruption trial of Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s former and longest-serving prime minister.