Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Valis: Conclusion

Man who killed infant son sentenced to 6 years in prison

The story of Yisroel Valis is an important story in the life of the blog, and the case was the subject of a long running feud between this blog and Cross Currents. [see here and here and here and here and here] Though I never took a position on Valis's guilt or innocence, I was deeply offended by the OJ defense put forward by some of his defenders who contended that the authorities who investigated the case were the Amona Police, or in the grips of an anti-Haredi bias. As I argued at the time:

The authorities have no reason to lie. Only Al Sharpton-types see bias under every badge. The responsible way to defend someone who is facing a mountain of evidence like the one assembled against Valis is to suggest that the evidence has been interpreted incorrectly, not to argue, (based on hearsay, lies and paranoia) that the police manufactured the evidence, and lied on official reports
I also strenuously objected to the excuse offered by some that the child's death was a "tragic accident"

The old “he fell off the bed” excuse is one that’s very common to investigators of child abuse, but a competent medical examiner can tell very easily the difference between a beating and an accident. They leave different injuries. A child who was dropped on the floor simply won’t look like a child who was beaten, or thrown against the wall. By suggesting the baby’s death was an accident, you are accusing the medical examiner of incompetence or of framing Valis. Are you prepared to do that? And on what basis?
As the case progressed, it became clearer and clearer that there was, in fact, no basis at all for saying the death had resulted from something innocent. The father, originally, admitted this - he first confessed to beating his son, and to throwing him against a wall, but afterwards changed his statement. At trial, Dr. Avi Rivkind identified bruises on the baby's face, and Dr. Iran Antebbe said the condition of the baby's left eye was consistent with abusive shaking. A doctor named Spector added that a CT scan indicated some trauma had occured, perhaps over the course of many weeks, and Dr. Ido Yatzivs stated that it was his opinion the child's injuries were inflicted, and not the result of an accidental fall. [Their testimony is summarized in this Cross Currents comment thread.]

When Valis was convicted, Jpost reported that the original findings of the police and the medical examiner had been upheld, and that this corroborated the crime to which Valis had admitted in his original confession:

Yisrael Valis was... found guilty of manslaughter for repeatedly biting, beating, pinching and punching his son Refael because he "did not accept him" due to a congenital defect in the child's neck muscles. [and later, at the time of sentencing, the paper explained that:] ...Valis did not intend to kill his son, and that his actions stemmed from recklessness. As such, the court saw fit to exercise leniency despite the severity of the offense.
In short, the daddy did it, but because he didn't do it on purpose, the judge was content to deliver a light sentence.

New complaint
None of this is news to anyone who has been following the story, and, alas, this next bit of information will not be surprising to anyone familiar with my aforementioned feud with Cross Currents. In his post today, a post, ironically, about media distortions, Yaakov Menken provides an object lesson. After leading off with a blatant contradiction of the newspaper account ("The father, needless to say, was cleared of all charges related to abuse."(!)) Menken treats us to the misreading of the century:

Judge Hannah Ben-Ami decided to convict him of manslaughter (not murder) because it was “reasonable to believe that there was awareness of the possible fatal outcome” of his actions — which stunned legal observers familiar with the meaning of “innocent until proven guilty.” It’s also, by her own statement, reasonable to believe that the father fell asleep and dropped his son"
Can he be that oblivious, or is the man best known for suppressing unfriendly comments showing us yet more of his deviousness? Judge Hannah Ben-Ami was not saying that the child's injuries were inconsistent with abuse. She meant that as he was inflicting them, Yisreol Valis was unaware that the injuries he was causing would lead to the child's death! There is no way the judge's statement can be construed to mean that "its reasonable to believe that the father fell asleep and dropped his son," nor can such an interpretation coexist with the medical evidence. Only someone wearing bulletproof blinders, and convinced that Orthodox Jews are incapable of criminal behavior could so confidently contradict the facts of this case. And only someone oblivious to his track record, would be surprised to see Menken attempt a distortion this flagrant.

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