domingo, 22 de marzo de 2015

First trial by jury in the city of Pergamino

The Jury acquitted the defendant: NOT GUILTY.


The members of the jury found the defendant unanimously not guilty for attempted murder. At 6.30 pm, the jurors rendered a verdict after a long deliberation at the Criminal Court of Pergamino District. The trial judge Guillermo Burrone acquitted the defendant.

The presiding judge Guillermo Burrone acquitted Mr. Leonel Alejandro Rosito of the charge of attempted murder after the jury´s unanimous verdict that found him “not guilty”.

After an intense journey at the district criminal court n°1 of Pergamino, that started early in the morning welcoming 50 potential jurors for the voir dire hearing to select the petit jury of 12, the trial itself began at 11.30 am. It was a historic moment for the city of Pergamino, an important town of mid-Buenos Aires province. An intense feeling surrounded the atmosphere of the completely filled courtroom during the whole trial, since this was the first trial by jury that took place in Pergamino and that was also the second trial by jury held at the Province of Buenos Aires.

The twelve members of the jury elected a woman as their foreperson. She was the first forewoman of the province´s new jury system. After a long deliberation, the jury rendered a not guilty unanimous verdict. For the jury, it was clear that, during the trial, the public defenders were able to demonstrate that the alleged attack was in the context of self defense, therefore lawful.

The disputed facts

Rosito (18) was prosecuted for attacking Mr. Alex Fabian Curima (28) with a knife belonging to the alleged victim after a fight that took place in front of a house located at El Socorro 700, on March 5th 2014. There, both men and many others gathered to watch in the TV the soccer match of the popular team Boca Juniors. During this meeting, everybody drank a lot of booze. By the time of the events disputed in open court, both Curima and Rosito were heavily drunk. Curima -who has been in jail before on charges of using knives- had also a strong bullying record. He was well known in the city for bullying people, both physically and verbally. The defendant Rosito alleged that he himself has been among the persons insulted, harrassed and humilliated by Curima during a long period of time.

While watching the match on TV, as the defendant stated, Curima grab his testicles violently saying: “You see?, you have no balls, you have pussy, little queer”...

After many more exchanges of rough language and insults, Rosito reacted and hit him hard with his fist. Curima went to the floor. When he recovered, he took out a big knife from his jeans and, there, both men -very drunk- engaged in a struggle, rolling over the floor. Rosito took the blade from Curima´s hand and stabbed him four times. Curima was in coma for 5 days, but he saved his life.

The prosecutor, Pablo Santamarina, accused Rosito of having injured Curima with a 25 inches long silver blade knife during the fight. According to the indictment, there were four wounds; one of them on the thoracic area which was very serious.

The defense was in the hands of two public attorneys, Virginia Gáspari and Lisandro Gargulinski. They were able to prove succesfully that the fight was started by whom ended up being the victim, and that Rosito acted in self defense after being provoked and insulted by Curima. Witnesses have so agreed, when describing the whole fight between the two men. They have also declared that Curima (28) was much bigger than Rosito (18).

The trial and the evidence

In addition to the testimony of both Curima and Rosito, two forensic experts, a physician, two policemen, two social workers (who provided decisive socio-enviromental reports), one local resident and three young men, who were in the place on the day that the event ocurred, were heard.

The alleged victim Curima was the first to declare. He sticked to his version -both during his testimony and on cross-examination- that he was attacked by the defendant as he sat in a couch while they were watching a football match between Boca Juniors and Olimpo. He was also asked about two previous incidents with knives that took place inside the prison service involving him, another inmate and a prison guard during the eight years in which he was held by other criminal convictions.

A local resident was called as a witness for the defense, relating a previous incident where Curima harrassed Rosito both physically and verbally in the middle of Pergamino´s main street.

Mr Rosito was the last to gave testimony, alleging -as it was said- that he acted on self defense in light of Curima´s knife attack. He said that he was carrying no blade, that the blade belonged to Curima and that he took it off from his right hand and stabbed him in order to stop the attack and save his life.

Closing Arguments

After all the evidence was presented, both parties delivered their closing arguments, facing a 12 citizen jury -and not three bench judges- for the first time in their professional carreers.

Not a single noise could be heard in the courtroom as prosecutor Pablo Santamarina tried to convince the jury that it was an attempted murder. His main argument was that Rosito could not lawfully exercise his right to self defense, since his life has never been in danger. In this regard, he stressed that the number of stab wounds did not show an act of defense. On the contrary, he said that Rosito took advantage that Curima has been drinking a lot and that, according to witnesses, he was completely drunk.

The prosecutor also acknowledged that Mr Curima was a “rowdy” person, who does not even generate him “sympathy”, but he said that killing a bad person is the same crime as killing a good one.

For its part, the public attorney Virginia Gáspari told the jury that her client defended himself from the knife attack of a violent person that has been in jail before and had a record of using knives. She also stated that Curima started the incident and the provocation, that Rosito was unarmed, that Curima was 10 years older than the defendant and physically stronger than him. She also said that, given the situation, her client intended to leave the house, but Curima did not let him. She also said that the evidence clearly indicated that Rosito felt in great danger for his life and that Curima was perfectly able to kill him.

VERDICT

The judge Guillermo Burrone addressed the jury with the instructions on the law and other technical issues. Then, the 12 person jury left the courtroom to deliberate. Two and a half our later, they returned to render a unanimous not guilty verdict.

Our INECIP press correspondent -who covered the whole trial- reported that “an exciting atmosphere covered the courtroom after the verdict” and that “the jurors´faces showed great relief and satisfaction with their verdict”. She also said that one juror told the local press about having a hard job during deliberations.


INECIP PRESS, Pergamino city, Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 20th 2015.



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