FORGET JURIES

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PRESIDENT MEDVEDEV DOES NOT WANT JURY TO HANDLE ORGANIZED CRIME

Trial by jury is giving ground.


According to the data compiled by the Department of Courts of the Supreme Court, juries handled 11% cases less in 2008 than they had the year before. All the same, the ratio of acquittance at trials by jury remained at the level of 20% (against 1% averaged by traditional courts).

President Dmitry Medvedev met with the Security Council yesterday to discuss the situation in the Caucasus. The president plainly told the Security Council to forget about “emotions or hesitation” when dealing with terrorists.

Medvedev suggested having the cases that involved armed resistance and organized crime withdrawn from juries’ jurisdiction. He said as well that it would probably be worth it to abolish the territorial jurisdiction principle for extremist and terrorist trials. The president said that it might lessen pressure on courts.

Alexander Bastrykin of the Investigative Committee admitted that law enforcement agencies were thoroughly displeased with justice in the Caucasus (“… they acquit terrorists, you know”). It was only recently that a Dagestani court flatly refused to warrant arrest of a man suspected of murder of a police officer.

A Presidential Administration official denied existence of a draft law in connection with the president’s ideas concerning the jury at this point.

“Sure, we will give it a thought,” Duma Legislation Committee Chairman Pavel Krasheninnikov promised. Last year, the Duma amended the acting legislation so that juries stopped considering cases involving terrorism. “Extending it to organized crime now will only be logical,” Krasheninnikov said.

“Trial by jury will soon stop being available for practically everyone facing ordinary criminal charges,” lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov warned. “Trust the prosecution to log banal crimes as something committed by the underworld just to make sure that it will be handled by court.”

According to Zherebenkov, law enforcement agencies dislike jury for its readiness to get to the root of the matter rather than slap conviction on the suspect without second thought.

Tamara Morschakova formerly of the Constitutional Court pointed out that the shrinking sphere of application of jury compromised the very future of justice in Russia. “Jury has a healing effect on the whole system,” Morschakova said.

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