Who delivers the verdict – the court or forensic experts?


Forensic medical examinations have been continuing for over three years into the case of Kharkiv resident Dmytro Zozulya, who is accused of murdering his friend. The court, guided by the forensic medical report, sentenced him to 11 years. However the results of another independent examination, carried out at the request of the defence, give a different version. The Kharkiv Region Appeal Court has thus called for another, eighth medical examination in order to establish whether what was involved was murder or a terrible accident.

In Kharkiv during the night of the first of January 2003 a group of adolescents were celebrating New Year.  One of the ways they chose was sniffing glue. The group included two friends - Dmytro (Dima) Zozulya and Dmytro (Dima) Subotin. The evening ended in tragedy – Dima Subotin died after falling from an eighth storey window, and the Kominternivsky District Court in Kharkiv found Dima Zozulya guilty of murdering his friend and sentenced him to 11 years deprivation of liberty.  The investigation determined that the two friends had had an argument, and  Zozulya, hitting Subotin on the head, pushed him out of the window.

The conclusions of the investigation seemed to be confirmed by the results of the forensic medical experts. Each version of the investigation finds its own corroborating evidence. Only, since Subotin’s body was exhumed, there have been five such forensic examinations. Some say that he was hit on the head, others do not.  It is precisely this detail which has led the defence to believe that the findings of some of the experts were falsified. In connection with this case, there is testimony from an expert from the Kharkiv Bureau for Forensic Medical Examinations, Valentyn Fesenko, stating that his institution is inclined to believe that the results of every second examination were falsified. He made a statement to this effect in a letter addressed to a State Deputy in September 2005 which he then repeated on air to a local television channel in April 2006.  In an interview to Radio Svoboda, in July 2006, Valentyn Vasylyovych said that he was ill, and unable to answer all the questions at the moment, and that he should not have said what he said on television as he was on leave at the time.

Valentyn Fesenko: “This is a terrible tragedy for the young people. There were three friends – one is dead, another convicted of killing him, and the third gave untruthful evidence about glue which were not confirmed during the numerous court hearings. I don’t know how and in what direction the investigation is now working”.

The father of the convicted man – Vadim Zozulya – insists that the results of the Kharkiv forensic medical experts were falsified. He turned to Kyiv forensic experts and the results which were signed by Professor Mykhailychenko, Candidates (PhD) of Medical Studies Vorobyov and Bilyakov have a number of significant differences from the results of their Kharkiv colleagues.

Vadim Zozulya “We insist that there was no murder, and that it was all a banal accident. And that in Kharkiv they have manufactured a murder out of an accident which should not happen.”

The defence lawyer Taras Kostiv argues that there cannot be significant differences between the results of such examinations – only extra information or modified details. “We stated this in the courts of both the first and the second instance. The findings of the examinations on which the sentence was based have no foundation and are not objective. These conclusions are not in keeping with other material of the case”.

The father of the dead lad, Vadim Subotin considers that only state institutions should carry out forensic medical examinations, and not independent experts. He is therefore convinced that Zozulya is guilty of murdering his son.

Vadim Subotin:  “The intention of the court to start a court investigation on the basis of some paper. Some joint stock company with limited liability for money carried out in Kyiv. Is that normal?”  

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