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Georgia: Jurors in Tbilisi Court Pronounce Guilty Verdicts

(June 21, 2012) On June 15, 2012, a guilty verdict was pronounced by jurors in a case of premeditated murder tried in Tbilisi City Court. (Davit Rusishvili to Be Sent to 21-Year Imprisonment, RUSTAVI 2 TV CHANNEL (June 15, 2012).) This appears to be the third case resolved by jurors since jury trials were introduced in the national criminal procedure system in October 2009. (Code of Criminal Procedure of Georgia [in Georgian] (Oct. 9, 2009), Parliament of Georgia website.) The first trial by jury in Georgia was conducted in November 2011, when an individual was tried for assisting the 1994 gang murder of three members of an ethnic Armenian family in Tbilisi. (Giorgi Lomsadze, Georgia: Tbilisi Jury Trial Marks Step Forward for Justice System, EURASIANET.ORG (Nov. 21, 2011).)

According to the Criminal Procedure Code, if the charges presented would incur a sentence of imprisonment, the case must be heard by a jury, unless upon joint motion of the parties the court agrees to hear the case without jury participation. (Art. 226.) However, the implementation of jury trials has been following the “step by step” approach, and according to the Code, until October 1, 2012, only cases of premeditated murder under aggravating circumstances will be heard by jurors. During this period, jury trials are limited to the Tbilisi City Court. (Art. 330.) Thereafter, during the two years preceding October 1, 2014, jury trials will be expanded to another court, thus being conducted in Kutaisi as well as in Tbilisi. As of October 1, 2012, the jurisdiction of jury trials will also be extended; juries will be able to hear cases under other Criminal Code articles, including premeditated murder under circumstances of sudden extreme emotional excitement and rape. (Id.)

According to article 27 of the Criminal Procedure Code, a jury is comprised of 12 jurors, who should meet certain requirements established in the Code. Among the requirements are one's inclusion on the voting list, domicile within the territory of the court's jurisdiction, being under 70 years of age, and having physical and mental capability. Certain categories of citizens, such as national politicians, members of the clergy, police and members of the military, professional psychologists, psychiatrists, lawyers, and known drug users are prohibited from being appointed as jurors. (Criminal Procedure Code, art. 30.)

While international experts and a part of the Georgian population praise the introduction of juries and consider it a measure for reducing the trust deficit regarding the judicial system, which has a 99% conviction rate?, many continue to oppose jury implementation. They cite the challenges of Georgian society's culture and tradition, which threaten to affect the decisionmaking activities of Georgian jurors. (Girogi Lomsadze, Gruzia: Sudy Prisiazhnyh Mogut Sozdat Slozhnosti dlia Zasedatelei[Georgia: Jury Trials May Create Trouble for Jurors; in Russian], EURASIANET.ORG (Nov. 3, 2011).)

Virab Khachatryan, a Law Library intern, contributed to this report.