Saturday, July 15, 2023

In a Russian City of 50,000, Courts Find Someone Not Guilty Only Once Every Three Years, Statistics Show

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 12 – Russians have very little experience with courts finding someone not guilty, according to Kirill Titayev, a Russian legal specialist at Cornell University’s School of Law. And in an average sized Russian city of 50,000, such verdicts happen only once every three years.

            These figures reflect an unwillingness of judges to rock the boat by suggesting that investigators have failed to prove their case and mean that few Russians expect anything but guilty verdicts, a view that makes the system more acceptable to most of the population  (; cf.

            Arnold Khatchatuvo, the head of the To Be Exact project, cautions that the number of exonerations, however, is “not the chief indicator of the justice of the judicial system.” What matters most is “the motivations of the law-enforcement organs … In a ‘just’ system, the goal of all is to punish the guilty; But in Russia, it is to meet a statistical quota” assigned from above.

            Yelena Yurishina, another specialist on Russia’s legal system, agrees. She says that “the logic in Russia is tied not to the goal of punishing the guilty and restoring justice. Instead, it is more bureaucratic” and intended to ensure that no one in the justice system is embarrassed by a finding that suggests they’ve made a mistake.

            Because exonerations are so fare, many Russians don’t see the need to hire lawyers; but that is a mistake Yurishina says because lawyers can introduce evidence even before a case goes to court that may lead to it being dropped or present materials at trial that will ensure a less severe sentence, conclusions that Kirill Titayev shares.

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