Russia Slow to Adopt Jury Trial Process

Moscow – A woman sat in the drab cage that holds the accused in a Moscow courtroom this month, charged with arranging the brutal murder almost three years ago, as a judge read aloud the following words: "Guided by the presumption of innocence, you are obliged to interpret all irremovable doubts in favor of the defendant," said the judge, addressing the seven women and five men who formed a jury of the case.

The speech would not have been read in the former Soviet Union, which dispensed justice from above. In the middle of the 90-ies, Russian reformers re-introduced jury trials - which Russia Slow to Adopt Jury Trial Process had existed toward the end of czarist rule - in an effort to advance basic civil liberties and limit the enormous power of judges and prosecutors. The new law's intent is to sweep away a thoroughly Soviet code that lingered unscathed long after communism's demise, and to replace it with trials in which the verdicts are not preordained, but fought over by legal opponents and hashed out in jury rooms by ordinary citizens.

But the jury revolution has come piecemeal. It is a form of justice that most Russians recognize only from books and Western Russia Slow to Adopt Jury Trial Process films. Almost ten years after the first post-Soviet jury trial, only nine of Russia's 89 regions allow juries, in part because they are expensive to implement. Only defendants accused of murder or a few other crimes may request them. And even with juries, acquittals are rare. The creeping adoption of jury trials reflects the pace of evolution in a judicial system still stacked against the accused.

Juries have wrought some changes, legal experts say. Police now conduct more professional investigations, aware that they may have to convince a jury, rather than a judge, of a defendant's guilt. Juries have had Russia Slow to Adopt Jury Trial Process an effect, even in places where they haven't been introduced, say defense lawyers.

Russian juries have authority to ask for mercy for defendants they convict, which limits the sentence a judge can impose. Defendants have a slim, but slightly better, chance of winning acquittal from a jury. Russian juries deliver convictions roughly 85 percent of the time, according to Supreme Court statistics, compared with a rate of more than 99 percent in verdicts by judges.

Convictions after a jury trial rise to more than 90 percent after figuring in appeals by prosecutors, which can result in repeated trials Russia Slow to Adopt Jury Trial Process. There are cases where defendants have gone to trial four times. By comparison, 70 percent of defendants charged with violent felonies in New York last year were convicted, according to the state Department of Criminal Justice Services. And American prosecutors cannot charge people with the same crime after they have been acquitted by a jury.

As the jury system is set to go nationwide, some Russians resist, preferring the country's old non-jury system, in which judges deliver their verdicts with two ordinary citizens acting as court-appointed "people's assessors". Some local politicians are dragging their feet, letting Russia Slow to Adopt Jury Trial Process money allocated to renovate courtrooms sit untouched.

Even in the pilot regions, jury trials have met with mixed political support. In Ryazan, in southern Russia, the governor complained to the Supreme Court that they have "produced a large number of acquittals that invoked a strong negative response among the population."

Jurors may be the least ready. Judges in pilot regions say they struggle to find citizens willing to do their duty for $4 a day. Those who ignore a summons face a fine of $250 that is rarely, if ever, imposed. The legislators fear jury boxes will be filled mainly by Russia Slow to Adopt Jury Trial Process poor or unemployed people if the sanctions are not toughened.

The job can be even more demanding than in the U.S. system. In addition to deciding a defendant's fate, Russian jurors must fill out written questionnaires prepared by the judge and designed to guide them in reaching a verdict. The questions concern the proof of each charge, a defendant's guilt and whether leniency is recommended. Some forms have included hundreds of questions.

Perhaps the biggest danger is that the time and expense of jury trials will simply overwhelm Russia's courts, even though jurors will hear only Russia Slow to Adopt Jury Trial Process major cases and the government is spending $1.5 billion to beef up the system. In the United States, experts say, only 5 percent of criminal cases are tried by juries; the rest are disposed of through a plea-bargaining system that Russia has so far rejected.

3. Explain the following:

-civil liberties;

-to linger unscathed;

-to dispense justice from above ;

-a preordained verdict;

- hashed out;

- to come piecemeal;

-the creeping adoption;

-stacked against;

-set to go nationwide;

-pilot regions;

-to drag your feet;

-to beef up;

-an acquittal;

-a plea-bargaining system.

4. Make a list of arguments for and against introduction of Russia Slow to Adopt Jury Trial Process the jury system in Russia. Use them in discussion in the form of a dialogue.

5. Express your opinion in connection with the following statements:

1) A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.
Robert Frost

2) When you go into court you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty.
Norm Crosby

3) We have a criminal jury system which is superior to any in the world; and its efficiency is only marred by the difficulty of finding twelve men every day who don Russia Slow to Adopt Jury Trial Process't know anything and can't read.
Mark Twain

4) The penalty for laughing in a courtroom is six months in jail; if it were not for this penalty, the jury would never hear the evidence.
H. L. Mencken

IV. Get acquainted with the following incident that took place in the UK some years ago. Think of additional details of the incident and conduct an interview with the defendant. Write an article for a newspaper based on the interview.


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