Staunton, Nov. 9 – When juries decided cases in Russian courts this past year, they found defendants not guilty in almost a third of all cases; but prosecutors appealed all such verdicts as Russian law requires and appellate courts reversed the jury findings in about 90 percent of the cases, dramatically limiting the impact of jury trials on Russian justice.
When cases are held not before a jury but only a judge, fewer than one half of one percent of defendants are found not guilty, and so in those cases, there is little need for such appeals (profile.ru/society/surovyj-ili-spravedlivyj-pochemu-prisyazhnye-opravdyvajut-a-sudi-vse-ravno-sazhajut-954513/).
These figures come in the first case from the Judicial Department of the Russian Federation Supreme Court (cdep.sudrf.ru/index.php?id=79); the latter comes from a study conducted by the Moscow Institute on Judiciary Issues (enforce.spb.ru/products/other-publications/7433-statisticheskaya-spravka-sudy-s-uchastiem-prisyazhnykh-v-2018-2020-godakh).
On the one hand, as Marina Yurshina of Profile says, this pattern suggests that juries are the only part of the Russian judicial system where the presumption of innocence in fact exists. But on the other, the reversals show that the powers that be don’t trust them or their findings and are using the appellate courts to ensure that almost all people charged with crimes are convicted.
Unfortunately, she adds, many Russians do not want to serve on juries because of the ways in which such service disorders their lives; and so prosecutors and judges have yet another way of keeping the number of jury trials down and the number of findings of innocence down to minimal levels.
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